A Hiller Too Tall To Climb: Ducks 3 – Red Wings 1

April 30, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller (1) blocks a shot as Detroit Red Wings left wing Johan Franzen (93) and center Henrik Zetterberg (40) are in position for the rebound during the first period in game one of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at the Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Detroit Red Wings get to the playoffs and immediately run into a goalie who ends up channeling the spirits of Patrick Roy and Georges Vezina combined.

It’s a little different this year since the Wings are the seven-seed and are underdogs against the Anaheim Ducks, but some things looked awfully familiar Wednesday night. Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller made saves both routine and spectacular in turning away 21 of Detroit’s 22 shots, and ageless Teemu Selanne netted the game-winner to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead in their opening round Western Conference playoff series.

Jimmy Howard (24 saves) wasn’t too shabby in the Detroit net either, though he yielded the game’s first goal just three seconds into Anaheim’s first power play. Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler fired a point shot right off an offensive zone faceoff, and Nick Bonino was able to deflect it past Howard at the 10:24 mark of the opening period.

The Wings answered with a power play tally of their own before the first intermission. Just after Ryan Getzlaf left the box to trim a two-man advantage to one, Jakub Kindl‘s shot ricocheted off the leg of Dan Cleary and bounced into the net to even the score a 1-1.

It remained that way through the second period mostly due to the two goaltenders. Howard was tested early, making one save even though he had no idea where the puck was, and Hiller flashed his glove several times. The Ducks also had several late chances during scrambles around the Detroit crease but came up empty. Both teams had a pair of power plays, one of which carried over into the third period for Anaheim.

That one turned into the Red Wings’ undoing. At the 1:29 mark of the third, Ben Lovejoy fed Selanne in the left circle, and a one-timer that NHL teams have seen so many times during his Hall of Fame career found the twine again. Francois Beauchemin, who starred on defense for the Ducks, iced the game in the closing seconds with a 180-foot empty-netter.

As expected, the series opener was a physical affair that saw the Ducks dish out 35 hits and the Red Wings respond with 24 of their own. Hiller was a mild surprise as the Anaheim starter, but he repaid coach Bruce Boudreau‘s faith and certainly figures to get the call again for Game 2.

That game will come Thursday in Anaheim, where the Red Wings will look to send things back to Detroit all square. They won’t be out of it if they lose again, but any hopes of pulling off an upset will be greatly reduced if they can’t solve Hiller and take the play to the Ducks a bit more.

The game was over when…

The Ducks stopped taking penalties about halfway through the game. Even though the Wings scored just once with the man advantage, they looked good moving the puck and generating some traffic in front of Hiller – much more so than at even strength. They never got any opportunities in the final 25 minutes, and a late call on Valtteri Filppula took some of the momentum out of any late flurry.

The unsung Red Wings hero was…

Justin Abdelkader, for contributing his old third-line physicality (leading the team with six hits) while also doing what he needs to do in his first-line role (four SOG, also tops on the night). Abs had the best chance for last minute magic as he was on the doorstep following a shot was thrown on net from the boards, but he was stymied by Hiller just like everyone else.

 

Topics: Dan Cleary, Jimmy Howard, Jonas Hiller, Teemu Selanne

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