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Miller: Blame rest of Ducks, not Hiller
Miller: Blame rest of Ducks, not Hiller
DETROIT – Goalie controversy?
Jonas Hiller had a clean look at Pavel Datsyuk's shot ... but was beaten anyway, allowing the tying score with barely six minutes left in regulation.
Then, he had to make a decision in overtime, chose wrong and gave up a free puck ... and the game-losing goal.
Just like that, the Ducks on Monday dropped an enormous, series-swinging Game 4 – "a great opportunity," their coach would say later – twice blowing leads and frittering away a chance to put their heels on the throats of the Detroit Red Wings.
Here's the controversy: Where were the rest of the Ducks to help their battered goaltender, who stopped 46 of 49 shots and kept his team in a game that was played largely in one direction, the direction pointing straight down Hiller's throat?
"They played very good, very hard, very desperate," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of the Red Wings. "Quite frankly, we didn't have 20 players playing. I mean, we had some passengers tonight."
There's only one problem with having two goalies who played equally as well and equally as often during the regular season. When the team loses a playoff game, everyone clamors for a change.
Seconds after Damien Brunner gave Detroit a 3-2 overtime victory and evened this series at two games each, the buzzer for Viktor Fasth began online.
Easy, folks. Hockey is an emotional game and hockey fans are an emotional group. Without Hiller, the Ducks never reach overtime here. They don't even come close.
"He was tremendous tonight," Boudreau said. "What'd they have? Fifty shots or whatever? And so many of them were right from the blue paint."
Up 1-0 early, the Ducks found themselves playing a half-court game, with their half of the court suffering sufficiently more skate blade damage. If time of possession counted for anything in hockey, the Ducks would have been buried.
"To be honest, we were caught off guard and on our heels a little bit," defenseman Cam Fowler said, and shouldn't a team as experienced as the Ducks be better than that? "Hillsy kept us in it the whole night. Hillsy definitely gave us a chance to win."
He did so by withstanding an avalanche of offense, the Red Wings firing pucks off all of Hiller's equipment, not to mention his exposed body parts. He was brilliant in allowing his team to maintain that 1-0 edge into the third period.
Finally, though, on Detroit's 33rd shot of this game and 56th shot of the two games here, Brendan Smith beat Hiller, the puck deflecting twice – both up and down – before sneaking over the goal line.
After five-plus periods of giving up nothing in Joe Louis Arena – remember, he had a shutout in Game 3 – Hiller was human again and the score was even again.
"We knew it was going to be a tight series," Hiller said. "We didn't think we were just going to walk through because we won the last game."
After the Ducks had gone up 2-1 midway through the third period, Hiller surrendered a second tying goal. But it took a world-class talent, truly one of the greatest players on the planet, to make it happen.
Datsyuk's laser eluded Hiller and popped the top of the net, making it 2-2 and setting up the crushing conclusion.
"It was a great-placed shot," Boudreau said. "That's what you expect sometimes from Pavel Datsyuk."
About 15 minutes into the overtime, Detroit's Gustav Nyquist split the Ducks defense in pursuit of a pass, charging toward the puck and the Ducks' goal.
At that moment, Hiller could have moved toward the play, but he didn't. As Nyquist bore down upon him, he poked at the puck and a frenzy ensued.
"It's a tough call for the goalie," Boudreau said. "He's got to anticipate who's going to win the race. Evidently, he didn't know. It's a 50/50 shot, so it's better to stay in the net. He made the save. It's the other five guys on the ice that didn't pick up Brunner coming in."
Just like that, the Ducks lost. But it wasn't just like that. Not really.
Despite the difference in shots on goal, 49-33, and possession time, the Ducks had several excellent scoring chances. They simply failed to convert.
Corey Perry, who still hasn't scored in this series, had a few. Ryan Getzlaf, who finished with four shots on goal, had a couple. Several Ducks had several looks, but the Red Wings still remain very much in this series.
And that's despite Jonas Hiller, not because of him.
"I think, going forward, he's definitely going to be our guy," Kyle Palmieri said. "I think tonight he played exceptional."
A lot of people thought that. And then some others want Fasth on Wednesday at Honda Center.
Not if the rest of the Ducks show up for Game 5.