Jonas Hiller was pulled from a start Thursday and was left hanging by his defense on Sunday. Which certainly explains his reaction following the Ducks’ 5-4 win over the Calgary Flames: “We found a way to win. That’s what’s most important.”
The Ducks nearly found a way to choke away the victory by allowing three breakaway goals, as the Flames erased a 3-1 first-period deficit to take a 4-3 lead. Breakaway goals are usually no problem for Hiller, at least in the shootout, where he is 8-4 with a .755 save percentage lifetime. (The average save percentage since the shootout was instituted is .670.)
But, Hiller explained, it’s a little different stopping a breakaway attempt in the middle of a game.
In a shootout, Hiller explained, “you can find your way where you have that timing from the middle of the rink, how far you can go back. Sometimes in the game you don’t have a lot of work like I had in the first two periods. It’s not always easy. I wish I could stop some. Definitely I have to do a better job on those breakaways.”
Olli Jokinen set the example with the teams skating 4-on-4 at 7:05 of the first period, using his patented forehand-to-backhand 5-hole move on Hiller to finish the sequence. Hiller said he got a piece of that shot with his leg pad.
Calgary tied the game at 3 at 3:56 of the second period when Curtis Glencross blocked a James Wisniewski shot, then passed the puck to Mark Giordano coming out of the penalty box. Giordano scarcely made any move at all, simply wristing a forehander past Hiller’s blocker.
The Flames took the lead at 9:19 on a similar play. Glencross blocked another shot by Wisniewski just inside the Flames’ blue line and broke out alone by himself. He used a forehand-to-backhand move to beat Hiller; after watching the goal Wisniewski smashed his stick in two over the goal frame.
“We sometimes should think a little more — instead of taking the shot, make the easy play and put it into the corner,” Hiller said. “In this game, what do you have to do if they make the block and get a breakaway?”
Glencross nearly did it again at 16:45 of the second period, making a long pass to Olli Jokinen to create another 1-on-1 breakaway for the Flames. But Hiller stoned Jokinen, setting the tone for a third period in which the goalie stopped all 19 shots he faced.
“Our goalie made some big, big stops for us,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “He wasn’t called upon early in the hockey game, and we left him hanging, high and dry.”
Carlyle said he would have stuck with Hiller had the game gone to a shootout. More than a decade ago, as coach of the IHL’s Manitoba Moose, Carlyle said he pulled the starting goalie in a shootout against the Cincinnati Cyclones. It didn’t work.
“I still believe it is the wrong thing to do,” he said, “unless the goalie’s injured.”