A few minutes after John Gibson finished his NHL playoff debut by shutting out a vaunted post-season power, the Anaheim Ducks' rookie goalie barely seemed to register a pulse, let alone any visible excitement.
The Ducks were plenty excited for him after another surprising twist in their playoff run left them even with the Kings.
Gibson made 28 saves, captain Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist, and Anaheim evened its second-round post-season series with a 2-0 victory over Los Angeles in Game 4 on Saturday night.
'I think there's always nerves, but you've always got to learn to control them. After the first five minutes, I settled down.' - Ducks goalie John Gibson after his NHL playoff debut
Devante Smith-Pelly also scored in the first period and Corey Perry had two assists for the top-seeded Ducks, who bounced back from two series-opening losses at home with consecutive victories at Staples Center. Anaheim regained momentum with a dynamic performance from a calm, collected 20-year-old goalie who was stopping pucks in Newfoundland three days earlier.
"I think there's always nerves, but you've always got to learn to control them," said Gibson, widely considered the best goaltending prospect in hockey. "After the first five minutes, I settled down."
If Gibson actually had any nerves, nobody noticed them while he became the youngest goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in his playoff debut.
Game 5 is Monday night in Anaheim.
Anaheim started its third goalie in three games with the dramatic entrance of Gibson, who made 39 saves in an AHL playoff game more than 7,000 km east of Los Angeles on Wednesday night. He coolly backstopped the Ducks even while the final 40 minutes were largely dominated by the Kings.
"He just goes about his business," said Smith-Pelly, Gibson's teammate for much of the American Hockey League season. "I've watched him all year. You would think there would be some nerves, but there were none. It was just like any other game. He's one of the more laid-back guys around."
Gibson, from Pittsburgh, made his NHL debut with three victories late in the regular season, and he got the Game 4 start from coach Bruce Boudreau in place of veteran Jonas Hiller, who started the first two games against Los Angeles and finished Game 3 after Frederik Andersen injured his right leg.
"As soon as we called him up, I thought about it," Boudreau said. "He's been playing, and he gives us the best chance to win."
The visitor has dominated the series between teams separated by 48 kilometres on the I-5 freeway, and Anaheim ramped up its defence downtown to even the series — even with a revolving door in both creases in Game 4.
Jonathan Quick allowed two goals in the first period for the Kings before getting replaced by rookie Martin Jones, who faced just three shots.
After a dismal first period by Los Angeles, Jones replaced the Conn Smythe Trophy-winning Quick in coach Darryl Sutter's apparent attempt to wake up the Kings, who then held the Ducks without a shot in the second period.
"The thought process was that we had given up two goals," Sutter said. "We should have done it sooner. They were scared to shoot [at Jones]."
After losing twice at home to open the series, the Ducks took control of both games at Staples Center with first-period goals.
Smith-Pelly, who replaced injured Matt Beleskey on Anaheim's top line, pushed past Drew Doughty into the Kings' zone and converted a pass from Perry for his third goal of his first NHL playoff run.
Getzlaf had the second assist, and he got his own goal on a power play 2:43 later on his 29th birthday. The Anaheim captain threw the puck into Quick's crease from behind the net, and it banked off the Kings and in for Getzlaf's team-leading fourth goal of the postseason.
"We certainly have to do more in the offensive zone," said Kings centre Anze Kopitar, whose points streak ended at 10 games. "We could barely generate anything on that first power play, and it kind of set us back. They score the two goals, and second and third (periods) we were in their zone, but we've just got to make it tougher on them."
Anaheim had never played a shot-free period in its playoff history, and Los Angeles had never held a playoff opponent without a shot for a full period until the second. The Ducks played more than 25 1/2 minutes without a shot until a power play created by Kopitar's double minor for high-sticking Andrew Cogliano early in the third.
Gibson made several big saves in the final minutes, stopping Kopitar, Jake Muzzin and Tyler Toffoli during one spectacular sequence.