ANAHEIM — The Anaheim Ducks have given the reins back to Jonas Hiller.
Having started every game on the bench in the first round, the embattled goaltender is back in the crease against the Los Angeles Kings in the second.
Hiller got the call again in Game 2 on Monday, after making 33 saves in an overtime loss Saturday.
“I felt pretty good, but at the end, it’s still disappointing if you lose,” Hiller said prior to Game 2. “You still want to have one or two back, but I thought it was a pretty solid game, especially for the fact that I haven’t played in quite a while or haven’t started for quite a while.
“I thought we didn’t give up too many good scoring chances. The only ones we gave up were the ones they scored on, which was too bad. Outside of that, I thought we played real well in our own end.”
As the Ducks' starter for most of the season, Hiller picked an inopportune time to go into a slump. He struggled toward the end of the year and lost his starting job to rookie Frederik Andersen, who got the call in the first round.
But, when Andersen struggled, getting pulled twice in the series against the Dallas Stars, it opened the door for Hiller, who’s made the most of the opportunity.
“He played two good games against Dallas,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “He’s been our No. 1 goalie all along, so when he starts playing good, you go back to him.”
Hiller did all he could in the opening game of the series and was seven seconds away from collecting a win in his first start in nearly a month.
However, Marian Gaborik scored with seven seconds left in regulation, then netted the overtime winner to give the Kings the victory and the upper hand going into Monday’s game.
Stationed in front of the net late in Game 1, Gaborik swatted a puck past Hiller as time was winding down.
“I think at the end, it was just a bad bounce,” Hiller said. “It got knocked up in the air and somebody bats it out of the air. I think it hit his shaft and somehow it went in. I think we had a chance to get the puck out before that, but it’s one of those things that sometimes cost you.”
The nature of the defeat did upset the Ducks, but the team had put it behind them heading into Game 2.
“I didn’t think the guys were too worried about it, you’re always going to lose games in the playoffs, you can’t expect to win them all,” Hiller said. “I thought we definitely took the positives from that game. I think everyone wanted to be back on the ice and play again as soon as possible, because we thought we deserved better the way we played.”
In order to beat the Kings in the series, Hiller doesn’t necessarily have to out-play Jonathan Quick at the other end, but he does need to make timely saves for his team and avoid giving up a bad goal.
Those are the things Hiller struggle with towards the end of the regular season.
“We have tons of confidence in Jonas,” said Ducks defenceman Cam Fowler. “We know what he can do, and when he’s on his game, he’s one of the best in the world. The biggest thing with us is we have confidence in whoever plays. Both guys have proven themselves and so that’s up to Bruce to make that decision.
“Jonas did a great job for us and put us in a position to win the first game. We had a couple of breakdowns and that’s why we lost. But we have a lot of confidence in him and we just have to do a better job in front of him going forward.”
WINNING SPECIAL TEAMS
The Los Angeles Kings were able to get out of jail in more than one sense Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks.
Apart from scoring with seven seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, the Kings were also able to kill off four Ducks power plays in the contest.
Having scored on one of their power play opportunities, winning the special teams battle proved to be the difference in the game.
“I hope we see less of it (penalty kill),” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter, prior to Game 2. “Both teams had seven, eight minutes in power plays and I think you’re still trying to get into three power plays (against) during the game. That’s the benchmark. When you start pushing into the four, or they’re a team that likes to play a lot of four on four hockey, they try and draw you in and you have to try and stay away from it.”
The Kings' penalty-killing unit has been a reason for their success so far in the playoffs.
They went into Monday’s game with the third-best penalty kill in the playoffs, functioning at an 88.9% efficiency.
They have given up just one power play goal since dropping the first three games of their opening-round series against the San Jose Sharks.
En route to five consecutive wins, the Kings have killed 22 of their last 23 three penalties.
“The thing with their kill is that they’re so aggressive, they don’t give you much time to make plays,” said Ducks defenceman Cam Fowler. “If you do get it set up in their zone, you’re not going to have the amount of time that you think you’re going to have on a power play to make a play. We need support all over the ice and really close to the puck. If we can do that, we should be able to break their pressure and try and get more scoring chances.”
MIKE ZEISBERGER BREAKS DOWN ALL 16 PLAYOFF TEAMS
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