Gibson just Ducky in debut

Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson makes a save against Los Angeles Kings centre Jarret Stoll on...

Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson makes a save against Los Angeles Kings centre Jarret Stoll on Saturday night. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:32 PM ET

The new era in Anaheim Ducks’ goaltending arrived in style Saturday night.

Touted to be the Ducks goaltender of the future, John Gibson stepped into Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal against the Los Angeles Kings and stole the show.

Gibson, 20, made 28 saves in a 2-0 victory, becoming the youngest goaltender to record a shutout in his NHL playoff debut.

“I just tried to play my game, I didn’t try to do anything different,” Gibson said on Sunday. “It was a big game. We knew they (Kings) were going to have a push at the end. Even in the second period they came out hard. It is just part of the game. I thought guys did a really good job in front of me helping me out.”

Gibson was called up from the Norfolk Admirals after Frederik Andersen suffered a lower body injury in Game 3 of the series on Thursday. The Admirals weren’t expected to still be playing at this point, but Gibson was outstanding in a first-round upset over the Manchester Monarchs, who happen to be the Kings’ AHL affiliate.

Gibson stepped off the plane from Norfolk and into the spotlight the following night, helping the Ducks even the series.

“It was awesome,” said Ducks defenceman Cam Fowler. “We have confidence in whoever we play in net. All three of our goalies have proven themselves as NHL goaltenders. But for him to step in the way that he did, in such a big game, especially on the road, considering he doesn’t have a lot of NHL experience, was incredible. The guys tried to rally around him, we tried to do the best we could in front of him. He made some key saves for us and that’s why we came out with the win.”

A second-round pick of the Ducks (39th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Gibson had three games of NHL experience going into Saturday’s pressure cooker.

Despite having veteran Jonas Hiller available, who did not play poorly in losing the first two games of the series, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau decided to roll the dice with Gibson.

“I just thought he gave us the best chance for that game to win,” Boudreau said. “That, and if we didn’t have success (Saturday), can you throw a rookie in a deciding game? Is it fair to him? I knew I could always come back to Hilly and be fine and be very comfortable with that.

“But that was his chance to see what he could do. And you knew L.A. hadn’t seen him before.”

Gibson will get the start in the pivotal fifth game of the series Monday in Anaheim.

Based on his play early on, he may never relinquish the Ducks’ net. Hopefully Gibson packed a large suitcase on his flight in from Norfolk.

“(Saturday) night was truly something special,” said Ducks defenceman Ben Lovejoy. “He did exactly what we’ve heard he does, he just stopped everything. He made the routine saves look easy. He made the difficult saves every time.

“It was so fun to play in front of him. I think we’re so lucky to have a guy like that come in and win a playoff game for us.”

Growing up in Pittsburgh and coming through the U.S. national team development program, Gibson is familiar with pressure situations.

He has been in a world U-18 championship, two world junior championships and a world championship tournament for the United States. Gibson played his junior hockey with the Kitchener Rangers before entering the Ducks’ system.

“My second year in Plymouth, he was the reason we didn’t beat Kitchener that year,” said Ducks centre Rickard Rakell. “We had a really good team and we were supposed to beat them but we couldn’t score on them. It was kind of like (Saturday). We outshot Kitchener but we couldn’t score. He was a big part of that. He’s a good goaltender.”

The Ducks kept Gibson in the minors this year due to the logjam of quality goaltenders they had on their team.

Hiller started the year as the Ducks starter, with Viktor Fasth riding shotgun. Injuries to Fasth paved the way for Andersen to challenge for the top role, which he eventually took over.

Fasth, in turn, was traded to the Edmonton Oilers, moving Gibson up the depth chart.

“Our goal was for him to play as much as he can play in this first year,” Boudreau said. “We had Freddie Andersen, we had Viktor until the trade deadline, and we had Hilly. There was never any rush. It was like we didn’t want to get into that we’re-rushing-him-before-he’s-ready type of thing. Our goaltending was not a problem.”


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