ANAHEIM, Calif. – Just in case any Anaheim fans still doubted Jonas Hiller is back in all-star form, the Ducks’ goalie stopped everything a Pacific Division power could shoot at him in his return to home ice.
Hiller made 31 saves in his 12th career shutout, Maxime Macenauer scored his first NHL goal, and Anaheim beat the San Jose Sharks 1-0 Friday night in the Ducks’ home opener.
Anaheim lost left wing Jason Blake late in the game with what coach Randy Carlyle called “a severe cut” on his left forearm. Blake went to a hospital for sutures, but the severity of his injury wasn’t immediately known.
Hiller hadn’t appeared in the regular season at Honda Center since Feb. 2, when he gave up three goals to the Sharks before getting pulled in the first period after his appearance in the All-Star game. He struggled to see the puck while battling a curious perception problem eventually diagnosed as vertigo.
Hiller played just 83 minutes after the All-Star break, but a summer of rest and rehabilitation in Switzerland have made him cautiously confident he’s back to normal, a feeling bolstered by two solid starts in Europe last week.
“I’m happy with the way it went, but I also think I worked real hard to be where I am now,” Hiller said. “I know it didn’t come back to me for free, so I know I have to keep working.”
He stopped 11 San Jose shots in the third period, holding off Joe Thornton and his high-scoring teammates.
“We know what he’s all about,” said Thornton, who played alongside Hiller in Switzerland during the NHL lockout seven years ago.
“He’s a great goaltender, a world-class goalie, but we have some world-class players here that can score, so it was disappointing that we didn’t score on him. We can’t get shut out like that.”
Thomas Greiss stopped 22 shots for the Sharks, who couldn’t maintain a strong start. Still missing goalie Antti Niemi and new scorer Martin Havlat, they had the past five days off after beating Phoenix in their home opener.
The Ducks are back from a full week off after returning from Europe, where they split two regular-season games and played an exhibition against Jokerit, the Finnish club that once employed Teemu Selanne.
The Ducks are 2-1-0 despite scoring just three goals this season, and Anaheim’s stars haven’t yet emerged. MVP Corey Perry, the NHL’s leading goal-scorer last season, and linemates Bobby Ryan and captain Ryan Getzlaf are all scoreless in three games. So are Selanne and his centre, Saku Koivu.
With Hiller on top of his game, the Ducks don’t have to worry.
“I want to make a statement every night, no matter what happened last year,” Hiller said. “It’s nice to get these games and feel good out there. Goaltending is a lot about confidence, and it’s easier to be playing well if you start a season with these kinds of games.”
The Sharks are believers after Hiller stopped everything they tried, including two point-blank chances in the final minutes. Joe Pavelski had the best chance on an apparently open net in the first period, but Hiller came from nowhere to stop it.
“I didn’t make a perfect shot,” Pavelski said. “I mean, he made a really good save, but there was definitely more room there. As a shooter, you always believe that it’s there. That’s what I saw. I just didn’t execute. I knew I was going to get another chance, and I did get a few chances, but when you get good looks like that, you’ve got to finish them.”
Greiss nearly matched Hiller’s effort, capitalizing on an opportunity to play for the Sharks while Niemi and Antero Niittymaki are both out with injuries. Greiss, a longtime Sharks farmhand from Germany, spent last season on loan in Sweden.
Anaheim scored just 14 minutes in when Macenauer charged the net and popped home a pass from enforcer George Parros for a goal in just his third NHL game. Macenauer was among the final cuts from Anaheim’s roster last season, and the 22-year-old centre earned a fourth-line role with a strong training camp.
NOTES: D Toni Lydman returned to the Ducks’ blue line after missing Anaheim’s entire training camp and the first two games while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. … Havlat still hasn’t played for his new club while recovering from a shoulder injury. Niemi made the trip, but backed up Greisswhile recovering from having a cyst removed. … Parros’ assist on Macenauer’s goal was his first since Nov. 7, 2010, against Nashville. … The Ducks also won their home opener in a shutout in 1998 and 1999.