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John Gibson, Ducks resilient on way to Western Conference Final

Goalie proves mettle to help Anaheim shake demons, overcome Oilers to set matchup against Predators

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- Almost overlooked on the Anaheim Ducks' way to the Western Conference Final against the Nashville Predators was the performance of goaltender John Gibson in a 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the second round.

Gibson called on deep reserves of resiliency after a mistake by rookie defenseman Shea Theodore allowed Drake Caggiula to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead 3:31 into the game at Honda Center on Wednesday.

"We got a little used to it -- there was quite a few of [those type of goals] in that series," Gibson said. "Hopefully, they're out of the way now. There's nothing you can do. Stuff like that is going to happen whether it's a bad bounce or a good break for them.

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Ducks series coverage]

 

"It happens. It's about responding. I think we all responded the right way."

The 23-year-old goalie made 21 saves the rest of the way to help the Ducks purge past Stanley Cup Playoff demons and advance to the conference final for the second time in the past three years.

Anaheim had lost a Game 7 at home in four consecutive postseasons before defeating Edmonton. Game 1 of the conference final is at Honda Center on Friday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Gibson also had to deal with recent playoff stumbles. He was pulled from Game 6 against the Oilers after allowing three goals on six shots in the first period of a 7-1 loss, and before that he was replaced after giving up four goals on 16 shots in a 5-4 overtime win against the Calgary Flames in Game 3 of the first round.

Further back in his personal rearview mirror, he allowed four goals on 18 shots before being pulled from a 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the 2014 second round.

The important thing for the Ducks, who won their first Game 7 in 11 years, was Gibson's reaction to the early breakdown against the Oilers. Edmonton had the momentum but never got the second goal it needed to break the game open.

Gibson wasn't terribly busy in the second and third periods -- facing three shots in the second -- but stayed sharp when the Grade A chances came after long stretches of inactivity.

Video: EDM@ANA, Gm7: Gibson sprawls to rob McDavid

That, at times, can be more difficult than a steady stream of non-threatening shots.

The confidence, starting with Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf and center Ryan Kesler, filtered through the lineup during the ups and downs of the second round.

"No matter if we're up, down … no matter the scenario, we have confidence in ourselves," Gibson said. "If we didn't have confidence when we were losing 3-0 [before coming back in Game 5 to win 4-3 in overtime], we could have been out of the series then. But I think we all believe in each other and have confidence in each other."

Their belief system will be tested with another difficult challenge in the form of one more playoff ghost: Nashville.

The Predators have been a tricky matchup for the Ducks. Nashville is 2-0 in playoff series against Anaheim, including a seven-game, first-round win last season.

In Game 7 of that series, goaltender Pekka Rinne made 36 saves to help Nashville to a 2-1 win. But Rinne has reached another level in the 2017 playoffs. He is 8-2 and leads the NHL with a 1.37 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage.

Of course, there are no pretenders at this stage of the postseason.

"The thing is anyone we face is going to have great goaltending because you don't get here without it," Getzlaf said. "It changes nothing for our group. [Rinne] is a great goaltender. We respect them. We're going to have to outwork that group."

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