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Rookie goalie blanks Kings; Ducks even series

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- John Gibson was more than 3,000 miles from Los Angeles, nursing a 39-save loss in Newfoundland three days ago. Saturday night, he stood in front of a podium in a packed dressing room and essentially introduced himself to the epic stage that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Reporters talked over each other in the bang-bang-bang session before Gibson broke up the room when asked if he sees himself as the future of the Anaheim Ducks.

"I don't think so," Gibson said. "I don't even know if I'm going to play the next game."

It's a good bet he will. The 20-year-old became the youngest goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in his playoff debut, a 2-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings that evened the best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round series at 2-2.

Game 5 is Monday at Honda Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

It was the latest turn in a strange and compelling inaugural Freeway Series in which the road team has won every game. The Ducks won despite going more than 25 minutes without a shot on goal, but that took a backseat to the main story.

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau made a gutsy move and started Gibson, who was recalled from the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League after that loss to the St. John's IceCaps on Wednesday and found out he was starting Saturday morning. It was his fourth NHL game. He was the first 20-year-old goalie to start a playoff game since Semyon Varlamov of the Washington Capitals in 2009 -- a team coached by Boudreau -- and he was the third goalie to play for Anaheim in the four games against L.A.

"As soon as we called him up, I actually thought about it," Boudreau said of starting Gibson, who got the call after Frederik Andersen was injured in Game 3. "The overriding reason was I thought, in today's game, he's been playing and he would give us the best chance to win. When it comes down to it, it's like each individual game is its own entity, and whatever lineup I put in -- I may be wrong 99 out of 100 times -- but I think this is the lineup that can win. And I got great feedback from everyone in our organization, and they all agreed, so I started him."

Asked about his Game 5 starter, Boudreau joked, "We've still got [Igor] Bobkov [who] we haven't used."

It was another no-confidence vote by Boudreau on Jonas Hiller, who hadn't really given up any bad goals in the series but was passed over for a rookie for the second time in three games even though he won in Game 3 in relief after Andersen was injured.

Gibson's teammates didn't seem to notice the move, at least not to the media.

"I'm not surprised at anything anymore, trust me," captain Ryan Getzlaf said.

Gibson became the first goaltender in 85 years and the second in NHL history to post a shutout in his regular-season and playoff debuts; Tiny Thompson did it with the Boston Bruins in 1928-29. Gibson also became the first rookie goalie to record a shutout in his playoff debut since Andrew Raycroft of the Boston Bruins did it against the Montreal Canadiens on April 7, 2004.

At 20 years and 330 days, Gibson is the youngest goaltender to win a playoff game since Montreal's Carey Price on April 24, 2008.

Gibson stopped every shot he faced on a night that saw Los Angeles outshoot Anaheim 19-3 during the final two periods. He got plenty of help from his teammates, who blocked 25 shots and forced the Kings to miss the target on 18 others.

But Gibson also showed the steady calm of a goalie with a World Junior Championship gold-medal pedigree. He faced five shots in the first six minutes and stopped Marian Gaborik on a 2-on-1 break. Gibson also made a key pad save on Tanner Pearson in the second period.

"Guys are pretty confident in him," Ducks center Andrew Cogliano said. "I've never seen a goalie like him, really. He's really calm. Before the game it looked like he was getting ready for a preseason game. You get a little scared when you're looking at him preparing. And then he goes out and plays like that."

Gibson said his international experience lent itself to this stage.

"I'm sure it helps a little bit," said Gibson, who played for the United States at the World Championship last year. "But at the same time, there's nothing like playoff hockey in the NHL. It was my first game so I didn't really know what to expect. The team did a really good job in front of me and helped me out a lot."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter countered with his own goalie move when he removed Jonathan Quick for rookie Martin Jones to start the second period after Quick allowed two goals on 11 shots. An odd hush rippled through Staples Center building when the change was announced, but Jones never faced a shot in the second and saw three in the third.

"It wasn't difficult," Sutter said of pulling Quick. "The thought process was that we had given up two goals. We should have done it sooner … they were scared to shoot."

The Kings' 12-0 shot advantage in the second period marked the first time the Ducks had been held without a shot in a period in a playoff game, and the first time Los Angeles held an opponent shotless in a period in its postseason history.

It didn't matter. By second intermission, the Kings had directed 56 shots at the net but 21 were blocked and 14 missed the target. One of those blocks was by Getzlaf, who scrambled to get in front of Drew Doughty's attempt at the doorstop early in the second.

The Kings went 0-for-4 on the power play, including two chances in the first period that generated one shot. Los Angeles committed 21 giveaways.

"It was a couple of mistakes and we have to be better all-around, whether it is turnovers or puck management," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "We didn't pass the puck well, and that lends itself to turnovers."

The second period was the opposite of the first, when, for the second straight game, Anaheim opened with a strong road period to take the crowd out of it and took a 2-0 lead thanks to its top line.

Devante Smith-Pelly was put on the top line with Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and it looked great from the start, producing two goals and three assists in the first period. Smith-Pelly put the Ducks in front at 16:02 when Perry tracked a loose puck from behind the net and slipped a clever pass back into the crease.

Getzlaf made it 2-0 at 18:45 when he shot the puck in off a sprawled Quick from behind the goal line with Pearson serving an interference penalty. The Kings were scrambling after an initial shot by Sami Vatanen was loose, and Getzlaf followed up his first shot that was wide of the net.

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