ANAHEIM -- For the second time in his NHL coaching career, Bruce Boudreau had to pull his prized young goaltender in a Game 7.
John Gibson became a major storyline in the first Freeway Series when he was recalled from the American Hockey League and won two straight games to help the Anaheim Ducks forge a lead against the Los Angeles Kings.
GAA: 2.70 | SVP: 0.919
"I didn't want to pull him at all," Boudreau said. "In my normal situation, I probably would have pulled the goalie after the third goal in the first period, but I didn't want to pull John. He made some big saves in the first period just keep it as close as it was. When they got the fourth, I thought it was more about protecting him than anything else."
Gibson had a shutout in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in Game 4, and stopped 36 of 39 shots to help the Ducks win 4-3 in Game 5 and take a 3-2 series lead. He didn't play poorly in Game 6, but a bad goal by Trevor Lewis was the difference in a 2-1 victory for the Kings.
Gibson wasn't poor in this game, either.
The first goal was the second rebound on a power play. The second goal was a breakaway. The fourth goal was a 2-on-1. Even the third goal, probably the one he wishes he had back the most, was a 2-on-3 where the defensemen in front of him (Cam Fowler and Francois Beauchemin, the team's top two players by time on ice, no less) let Mike Richards slip through them to collect the rebound.
"I think a lot of the buzz is going to be about him, and I think that's unfortunate because he was in a pretty tough spot and he's a young guy," Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said. "Obviously he didn't have the game he wanted to. I'm sure he can say that for himself. I don't think he deserves any of the blame for this loss."
Forgive Boudreau if there was a twinge of deja vu. Five years ago, Boudreau had a 20-year-old goaltender who helped his Washington Capitals defeat the New York Rangers and reach Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Semyon Varlamov yielded four goals on 18 shots. He was pulled 2:13 into the second period, lasting 11 seconds longer than Gibson did.
"We lost the game. We weren't ready from the start," Gibson said. "I didn't make the saves I had to make and we lost the game."
Gibson will still be a young goaltender next season, but he now has some NHL experience to draw upon. He and fellow rookie Frederik Andersen could start next season as the youngest duo in the NHL, provided general manager Bob Murray doesn't add a veteran in the offseason, but they could also be among the most talented.
If he needs to look elsewhere for comfort, Varlamov had a strong sophomore campaign in the NHL and has developed into a Vezina Trophy candidate in 2013-14.
"I think learning. Be better next year," Gibson said when asked what he'll take from this. "I really don't think you want to look back on a series that you lose. Probably not."