John Gibson is a young man of few words with reporters crowded around him, but with pucks flying his way Thursday night, he spoke volumes.
The 21-year-old Ducks goalie, making his first start since Oct. 30, recorded 35 saves to lift his struggling team to a much-needed 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, aided by forward Matt Beleskey's second-period goal and assist.
And in boarding a flight back to Southern California with his team after a minor league promotion during Anaheim's tiring five-game trip to the South, Gibson made a convincing case to remain a Duck.
"I just wanted to help the team win," Gibson said. "They've had a tough couple of games," getting outscored by a combined 11-5 in trips to Tampa Bay and Florida. "I wanted to help them get back on track."
Message received, Coach Bruce Boudreau said.
However, starting goalie Frederik Andersen is expected back next week from injured reserve after getting struck on the back of the neck by a tipped-over goal Sunday. And the Ducks have $1.9 million invested in veteran backup Ilya Bryzgalov.
"That's what he's trying to say with that statement, but it's not his call," Boudreau said when asked whether Gibson is now the clear No. 2 goalie.
Gibson went 2-2 in the playoffs last season and posted a road shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks before suffering a groin injury that led him to an extended assignment with minor league Norfolk.
"He's working for every minute he gets," Ducks right wing Corey Perry said. "He's put in his time, and hopefully he can take over and run with it."
As hard as they pushed in Wednesday's practice, the Ducks (35-14-7) couldn't match the energy Carolina (19-27-7) showed during the game's first half.
The Hurricanes, rested since a Saturday game, took 26 of the game's first 34 shots on goal and finally broke through when center Jeff Skinner sent one high that bounced off and behind Gibson's upper torso at 9:40 of the second period.
At that point, Ducks tough guy Tim Jackman fought Carolina's Tim Gleason and livened up the visitors. A blast at Gibson by Carolina's Jiri Tlusty was saved, and another spark came as Perry surged to the Hurricanes' net.
Carolina goalie Cam Ward moved off to his right, but the puck was at his left. Beleskey touched it and Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin tipped it upward to tie the score at 5:22.
Less than three minutes later, Beleskey scored his 21st goal by capitalizing on the puck bumbling of Carolina's Victor Rask and stabbed a shot over Ward's right arm.
"When you're in that slump, you gotta go to the net and whack it. I didn't aim on either," Beleskey said.
The Ducks were outshot, 36-17.
"I don't think there was a lot of gas left in the tank for a lot of guys," Boudreau said. "This has been a long trip where we've gotten into the next town no earlier than 2 a.m. every time. Sometimes, wins like this jump-start you to play better."
The goalie was the one holding the reviving paddles.
"He looked in control of himself at all times, square to the puck all night," Boudreau said.
They were 2-2-1 on the trip, but "there's going to be smiles on the plane on the way home," Perry said.
Gibson's should be the widest.
"I'll just relax for a couple days and get ready for Sunday," Gibson said, a vote of self-confidence knowing the Ducks' next game is against the Washington Capitals that evening.