Jonas Hiller could have saved Ducks’ season
Never had Jonas Hiller stood in goal for so long or faced 62 shots, each carrying the potential to swing the Ducks’ second-round playoff series prohibitively toward the Red Wings.
Back home in the Swiss League, playoff games that are tied after one overtime are settled by shootouts. Not so in the NHL. So before Sunday’s first overtime -- and then the second and third -- he drank water to stay hydrated, ate bananas for energy and stayed calm.
“I didn’t know how it was going to be, but I felt good,” he said. “It’s easier to mentally focus if your body feels good.”
His teammates felt good seeing him turn away 29 shots in overtime. They felt even better after Todd Marchant zipped up the left side and rifled a long shot past Chris Osgood 1:15 into the third overtime, giving the Ducks a 4-3 victory and sending the series to Anaheim on Tuesday even at 1-1.
This added to a string of overtime playoff epics between these teams. But in the past, Jean-Sebastien Giguere provided the acrobatics for the Ducks: He won four straight playoff overtime games against the Red Wings, including a 63-save gem in the opener of their 2003 first-round series.
Hiller’s 59 saves Sunday were the most by a Ducks goalie since then and came in the Ducks’ longest game since Petr Sykora scored 48 seconds into the fifth overtime of a second-round opener at Dallas on April 24, 2003.
Hiller was Giguerean. There’s no better term.
“Fifty-nine saves. That’s crazy. What a game by him,” defenseman Ryan Whitney said. “It’s unbelievable. And that was a must-win.”
The Ducks have never won a playoff series after losing the first two games. They made sure they wouldn’t have to test their luck against Detroit by staying disciplined -- they took only three minor penalties -- riding another monster game from Ryan Getzlaf (one goal, two assists) and getting contributions from everyone.
That included Marchant, a speedster as a youth and now a tenacious defensive player. He took a pass from James Wisniewski and capitalized on the space created when Rob Niedermayer drove up the middle and drew the Detroit defense with him.
“Three overtimes, that’s a lot of time. But guys stayed with it and we got great goaltending again,” Marchant said. “Not many games get decided off my stick, that’s for sure. It’s a tremendous feeling but this was a team effort.”
Wisniewski said the Red Wings erred by giving Marchant the shot from the outside.
“You’ve got a little leprechaun flying down the left side you want to get a stick on him or something,” Wisniewski said.
Osgood, who made 42 saves, said he didn’t see the shot until it was behind him.
“These are two veteran teams. Nothing’s easy, nothing’s given out there,” he said. “It was just a good game and we came out on the wrong end. Both games have been total battles. We knew it was going to be like this.”
The Red Wings had scored first, while Getzlaf was serving a slashing penalty. A shot by Nicklas Lidstrom went off Brad Stuart’s foot before striking Wisniewski’s foot and caroming past Hiller. The NHL reviewed it to determine whether Stuart had employed a distinct kicking motion and allowed the goal to stand.
The Ducks pulled even at 8:16 of the first period. Despite being hit into the left-wing boards, Corey Perry slipped a pass to Getzlaf, who drew Osgood down. The goalie stopped Getzlaf’s first shot but Getzlaf knocked in the rebound.
The Red Wings, remembering Mike Brown’s hit on Jiri Hudler in Game 1, targeted Brown for some shots Sunday. One backfired when Stuart chopped at Brown and was called for interference. The Ducks converted that opportunity when Perry got the puck to Getzlaf at the left point, Getzlaf passed across to Chris Pronger, and Pronger let loose a one-timer that eluded Osgood at 8:50 of the first.
The Red Wings matched that on a rare soft goal allowed by Hiller at 13:54. With the Ducks caught in their own zone, the Red Wings used their excellent transition game for a rush capped when Mikael Samuelsson’s backhander slipped between Hiller’s leg pads.
“It was a good shot but I’ve got to be a little quicker,” Hiller said.
The Ducks took a 3-2 lead at 4:42 of the second period on a power play they gained when Chris Chelios high-sticked Josh Green in the Ducks’ zone. Scott Niedermayer shot wide of the net, but Ryan Carter corralled the rebound and snapped it home.
The Red Wings, urged on by a loud and loyal crowd at Joe Louis Arena, made it 3-3 at 5:19 of the third period. Dan Cleary, pursued by Getzlaf, was falling when he swatted the puck to Henrik Zetterberg in the left corner. Zetterberg found Johan Franzen for a snap shot that slipped between Hiller’s right shoulder and the post.
Thanks to Hiller, that was all the scoring until Marchant made his dash.
“You never know how it’s going to happen or who it’s going to happen to,” Marchant said. “It takes a total team effort to get to that point.”
On Sunday, it took an effort that was Giguerean.