|"It was about time," Hiller said, "we finally win a shootout."
By the time it was over, there was hardly a fingernail left unchewed, hardly a rear end that wasn't on the edge of its seat.
Hate it or love it, the shootout can be the ultimate in enjoyable agony, and last night was the epitome of that. It took eight excruciating rounds for the Ducks to earn an amazing 14th straight home victory against the Calgary Flames, dating way back to January 19, 2004. More importantly, it was a win Anaheim desperately had to have.
"In the grand scheme of things, it's an extra point to move up on teams," said Bobby Ryan
, who had the first goal in the Ducks' 3-2 decision. "But I think that's the most critical shootout we've ever been in. You could feel it down the bench, that's for sure."
Not only that, it was Anaheim's first shootout win since Ryan won it for them way back on October 8 against the Rangers in Helsinki. Since then, the Ducks had gone 0-4 in the shootout and another 0-4 in overtime (including Calgary last month).
"Yeah, it was about time we finally win a shootout," said Jonas Hiller
, who was a major reason they finally did. He stopped six of eight Calgary attempts, including a few that would have clinched it for the Flames. The Ducks couldn't breathe easy until he made a stop on Mikael Backlund, but had to reach behind his own body to shoo the trickling puck away from goal line. That more than made up for the fact the Ducks lost a 2-1 lead in the third period and dodged a couple of close calls in overtime. (They actually almost won it themselves in the extra period when a quick Teemu Selanne
shot got under goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and hit the very inside of the far post.)
"We really needed those two points," Hiller said. "We really wanted it. It wasn't an easy game. I think both teams played really hard. You could see it out there. Both teams really wanted those points.One point more or less, especially in the situation we’re in, can be between having a chance to make the playoffs and being out of the playoffs. I knew it was really important. I really wanted it."
The Ducks only got in position to win on Hiller's save because of Niklas Hagman
, Anaheim's eighth shooter on the night after only Ryan and Corey Perry
had successful shootout bids. Hagman sprinted in on countryman and former Calgary teammate Kiprusoff, and waited just long enough to get the goaltender sprawling before lifting a wicked wrist shot past him.
"It's a goalie that I've practiced a lot against quite a bit," said Hagman, who played in Calgary from 2010 until he was acquired by the Ducks last fall. "I don't have that many moves. He knows my go-to moves. I tried to switch it up a little bit.
"I wanted to come with good speed and I wanted to shoot it. Luckily for me, he probably thought that I'm going to go with my backhand."
(Kiprusoff was going for his 300th career win and his first in Anaheim as a member of the Flames. He actually earned his second NHL win in what was then known as the Pond as a member Sharks on April 8, 2001. Since then he is 0-6-3 lifetime at Honda Center in the regular season.)
Here's video of both the clinching shot and save:
"We needed that one pretty bad," said Bruce Boudreau, whose Ducks pulled to within 10 points of a playoff spot. "I’m sure in the last 30 games there are going to be a lot of games like that around the league, which is what makes hockey so great."
And even if that gut-twisting overtime and shootout took a year off all of our lives, or at least made us lose a little bit of hair, maybe in the end it was all worth it. That, as well, is what makes hockey so great.