Through all of the fanfare, the concerts, the noise and the distractions that surrounded the ice during Saturday night’s hockey game at Dodger Stadium, there was one constant that remained steady throughout: Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller.
It was easy to get lost in the "spectacle," as Ducks’ defenseman Ben Lovejoy called it, but Hiller played an unflinchingly solid game, shutting out the Kings in a 3-0 win.
A baseball analogy would be appropriate here, as the game did take place in one of the most iconic ballparks in the game. Like Billy Chapel would say in the movie "For Love of the Game," Hiller was able to "clear the mechanism."
"Hiller was so good tonight that in the third (period) I said, ‘It doesn’t matter, they’re not going to get him," Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said. "No matter how many good looks they had in the last 10 minutes they just weren’t going to beat him over, they weren’t going to make him miss the puck. It was his karma; he was on."
While it might have been easy for the crowd of 54,099 to forget that there were two points on the line in a battle between two area rivals, the players on each team never forgot it. Hiller especially, as he had a poor performance earlier in the week in the Ducks’ first home regulation loss to Winnipeg.
"It wasn’t too tough. There was a big buzz and I was super excited to play and get a chance to play in front of such a big crowd," Hiller said. "I got into the game and got quite a few shots and our guys did a really good job blocking out."
He stopped 36 shots in conditions that not one player on that ice was familiar with. The glare from the stadium lights made it difficult to see the puck on ice that played somewhat slow to being with.
"You’re out there and you can’t find the puck half the time and you’re running around a little bit," said Ducks’ captain Ryan Getzlaf. "But our goaltender obviously was unbelievable tonight, he made some big saves and kept us in the game."
"I was able to see most of the shots," Hiller said. "I think it was a little bit of a tough game to play for both sides because the puck seemed to bounce a lot and you didn’t get too many nice plays. It was kind of like everything at the net but I found a way to keep the puck out."
Matt Beleskey struck first for Anaheim, catching Jonathan Quick off guard with a quick wrist shot. Corey Perry then followed late in the period to put the Ducks up 2-0.
The Kings outshot the Ducks 36-21 and dominated the puck possession but still failed to convert. They are now 0-for-11 on the power play in their last three games and have lost five straight for the second time this season.
Don’t blame it on the outside distractions either – the Kings say they were just as focused as the Ducks.
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"We were ready to go," said defenseman Drew Doughty. "They just out-competed us, got a few bounces in the first, and scored some big goals. We failed to do that, and that was the reason we lost."
The Ducks extended their league-leading total to 83 points, seven points ahead of the Blackhawks in the Western Conference. And on national television they showed the league why they are, in fact, the best.
It was a production, an event and a game to remember. If Southern California wasn’t on the hockey map before, it is now.
"I remember who won every outdoor game so far. I think everybody does, they’re such an important focal point for the league," Lovejoy said. "It was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done playing hockey. …This was a lot of fun, this was a different atmosphere and it shows you can play hockey outside in California."