In what could only be described as a relatively ‘odd’ playoff series thus far, with the home team 0-4, and both teams having combined to use five different goalies, the Anaheim Ducks tied the series at 2-2 on Saturday by defeating the Los Angeles Kings 2-0. Ducks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau rolled the dice by starting rookie goalie John Gibson, and his faith was rewarded with a 28-save shutout. In our Game 3 preview, we pointed out that the Kings had a chance to put the Ducks away and they didn’t seem to be taking their 2-0 series lead for granted, but the Kings played rather uninspired hockey at Staples Center and now find themselves back at square one. To be fair, the Kings did limit the Ducks to only 14 shots in Game 2 (and only THREE in the second and third periods, combined), but they couldn’t generate any consistent pressure in the offensive zone.
The series is now reduced to a best-of-three with two games to be played at the Honda Center in Anaheim, where the Kings won Games 1 and 2 (the Kings have won four consecutive road playoff games overall). Although he was benched after the first period in Game 4, Jonathan Quick is slated to start Game 5, as is rookie John Gibson. Frederik Andersen is still out indefinitely, making Jonas Hiller the back-up goalie for Game 5. In terms of other key injuries, Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr remain out indefinitely for the Kings, while Matt Beleskey remains out for the Ducks, and Matthieu Perreault will be a game-time decision.
With a rookie goalie–albeit a good one–in net for the Ducks, the Kings must do everything they can in Game 5 to put early–and constant–pressure on Gibson. The Kings scored a total of 2 goals in Games 3 and 4, and one of them came at the very end of Game 3 with Quick pulled for an extra skater. If only for morale purposes, the Kings would do well to score first and early in Game 5. Although they won Games 1 and 2, they’ve played behind for a good portion of the series, and that trend didn’t bode well for the team in Games 3 and 4.
With a chance to take back control of this series and go back to Staples Center with an opportunity to close out the Ducks, the Kings must play desperate hockey in Game 4. This team reminded a lot of people of just how resilient they are, in beating the San Jose Sharks, but putting themselves in a hole again in this series could eventually catch up to them.