Hiller gets shutout, Ducks stun top-seeded Sharks

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SAN JOSE, California (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks worked for six

arduous months to earn home-ice advantage throughout the

playoffs. The eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks took it away in 60

minutes, thanks to the peerless puck-stopping of a goalie new to

the NHL postseason, but not to big-game pressure.

Jonas Hiller made 35 saves in a sparkling playoff debut, and

Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist in the third period of the

Ducks' 2-0 victory over the Sharks on Thursday night.

After two periods of the tight-checking hockey expected in this

meeting between California rivals, Ducks captain Scott

Niedermayer scored a power-play goal early in the third on a

pass from Getzlaf, who then roared out of the penalty box to

score his own goal with 2:25 to play.

With little panache and ample patience, the Ducks showed why

they were feared by every potential Western Conference opponent,

even after their unimpressive regular season. The 2007 champions

needed a late surge just to get into this Stanley Cup

tournament, finishing 26 points behind San Jose -- but that big

number was erased by Hiller and his teammates.

"It's sure easier to start with a win," said Hiller, who took

the Ducks' starting job from Conn Smythe Trophy winner

Jean-Sebastien Giguere this season. "Now, San Jose almost has to

win the next one, so that's some pressure on them, but they're a

great team."

Hiller wasn't intimidated by the deafening crowd at the Shark

Tank, claiming he's heard similar volume during playoff games

with Davos in the Swiss A-League. He thought "the intensity,

it's a little higher" in the NHL postseason, but "it's not too

bad."

Backed by their Swiss goalie's flawless play and excellent

penalty-killing, the playoff-tested Ducks put an early playoff

scare into the Sharks, who won the Presidents' Trophy during the

regular season with 117 points. Game 2 is Sunday night at the

Shark Tank.

"There are things we did well, but the game really could have

gone either way," Niedermayer said. "(Hiller) stepped up and

made a couple of saves, and they hit a couple of posts. They

came at us pretty good, but we still felt pretty good about how

we played."

Evgeni Nabokov made 15 saves for San Jose in the opener of the

first postseason series between two California clubs in four

decades. San Jose won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time

in franchise history, but the Sharks realize it counts for

nothing in the playoffs -- and they looked like the

less-experienced club for most of the night at a largely somber

Shark Tank.

"We felt like we (controlled) the majority of the play, but

that's just hockey," Joe Thornton said. "We've got to keep

people in front of the net, keep getting shots, and it'll work

for us. ... We've got a good veteran club here, and last year we

lost Game 1 against Calgary. We've got to think about this for 5

minutes, and then we'll move on."

Still, the loss puts the Sharks under postseason scrutiny yet

again after three straight second-round exits. Their 0-for-6

power play won't stop another round of questions about their

mental toughness.

"We didn't create too many second opportunities," said Sharks

coach Todd McLellan, an assistant on Detroit's Stanley Cup

winner last season. "That's their goalie doing a great job

around their net, and us doing a poor job. Their goaltender

swallowed a lot of pucks. We obviously have to be better in that

area."

San Jose showcased its superior skill while outshooting the

Ducks by a 2-to-1 margin, but the Sharks rarely threatened to

get any of those chances past Hiller. Coach Randy Carlyle stuck

with Hiller instead of going back to Giguere, the 2003 playoff

MVP, who watched the game from a folding chair behind the glass

opposite the Anaheim bench.

"Jonas is more than just a raw rookie," Carlyle said. "He played

in some World Championships and the Swiss League, and won

championships. ... He's a very calm guy. He doesn't get too high

or too low."

Through the first 45 scoreless minutes, the Sharks resembled the

squad that coasted to the close of the regular season after

clinching the division title a month earlier. San Jose struggled

to string together consecutive clean passes, and had difficulty

keeping the puck in Anaheim's zone, even during power plays.

Niedermayer, the Ducks' other Conn Smythe winner, had the touch

to break open a scoreless game after the Ducks got a

man-advantage from a foolish tripping penalty by Jonathan

Cheechoo. Getzlaf, the playmaker who had four assists in

Anaheim's most recent visit to San Jose, made a sharp pass to

the opposite faceoff circle for a one-timer by Niedermayer, who

slipped his low shot past Nabokov with 14:42 left.

Getzlaf committed an elbowing penalty with 4 minutes to play,

but Anaheim's penalty-killers held on. Getzlaf then came

straight to mid-ice from the penalty box, accepted a pass from

Mike Brown after Marc-Edouard Vlasic's turnover, and ripped a

shot past Nabokov.

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