For John Gibson’s sake, the Anaheim Ducks hopefully were able to install a cold tub on its charter back to Southern California on Tuesday night.
With Anaheim capping a six-game, 14-day road trip that amassed 7,500 air miles, the Ducks goaltender could use an ice bath after doing to the Wild what no goaltender was able to do to the conference’s best offensive team the past three months: shut down the Wild’s players during Anaheim’s 1-0 thievery.
Gibson made 37 saves for his 10th career shutout and fourth this season. It was shades of Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who shut out the Wild three times in the 2003 Western Conference final. Despite dominating the contest, the Wild was blanked for the first time in 41 games and suffered its third 1-0 loss of the season and its second at home. The last time came back on Nov. 15.
The Wild’s Bruce Boudreau used to coach the dialed-in Gibson in Anaheim.
“You could tell very early on, or I could … he was really on his game and it was going to take something special to beat him,” Boudreau said. “But we couldn’t find that. I think if we had got one — they looked very tired — then they may have sagged.
“But as long as they had the lead, they were going to be strong for [Gibson], and they were, especially in the last 10 minutes.”
The Wild, 26-5-3 since Dec. 2, outshot the Ducks 29-12 in the first two periods with the shot attempts being 51-29. Things got tighter in the third period as the Ducks collapsed down low in the offensive zone to protect the danger areas.
The Ducks’ lone goal, it could be argued, didn’t even come off a scoring chance. In the first period after Charlie Coyle lost a puck along the right wall in the Ducks’ end, Corey Perry shot from the right half wall in the Wild end.
Devan Dubnyk couldn’t handle the shot off his pad, the puck dropped in the crease and Joseph Cramarossa, after making a move to get loose from Nate Prosser, whacked at the goalmouth rebound.
“Don’t like to leave rebounds there. It was in the net pretty fast, and that’s my job to try tidy up rebounds,” Dubnyk said. “But that’s why you throw the puck at the net from bad angles. I mean, we could have had five, six of those tonight if there wasn’t a magnet around the other goal.
“We play like that, we’re going to win 90 percent of the time.”
He wasn’t kidding.
It was extraordinary how many close calls there were around the Ducks’ net. If Gibson wasn’t swallowing pucks or kicking Grade A chances aside, pucks were missing the post by centimeters. Jason Pominville and Christian Folin each rang pipes. Players also were swinging and missing at rebounds or couldn’t muscle their way to pucks because of strong Anaheim box-outs.
“We couldn’t get inside,” Boudreau said.
“It’s not like we didn’t have the chances, didn’t have the shots,” Coyle said. “It was there. … Hats off to that goalie.”
The Wild, which entered the game with a league-best 30.1 percent success rate on home power plays, went 0-for-5 with 13 shots on goal.
The Wild also played a penalty-free game for the eighth time in franchise history and wasn’t shorthanded for the 15th time in franchise history.
“They had a lot of momentum and they had the puck a lot. They had the enjoyment and the luxury of five straight power plays,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said, sarcastically. “I guess they didn’t do one thing wrong out there.”
The Wild was playing again without injured second-pair defensemen Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba, although rookie Gustav Olofsson played arguably his best NHL game. The Ducks were playing without three defensemen.
Wild veteran Eric Staal, who has one goal and four assists in the past 15 games, clearly is pressing. He stared at the rafters a few times, exasperated after chances he didn’t convert.
“That was the first time I think all year that I saw him extend his shifts trying to get something because it might be bothering him a bit,” Boudreau said.