VANCOUVER – What’s old was new again for Jonas Hiller on Saturday night.
The Anahiem netminder shook off pre-game butterflies for the first time since his rookie season, stopping 21 shots as Ducks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 pre-season play.
Hiller picked up the win in his first game since March 24 when Anaheim shut him down for the season due to recurring vertigo. Jeff Deslauriers blocked seven of eight shots in the third.
“It was just fun being out there and playing,” said Hiller, who entered the league in 2007-08. “It’s definitely been a while. I was actually a little nervous because it has been such a long time and I haven’t really played a real game. It felt good out there and I was happy to get the win.”
Cam Fowler paced the Ducks offensively with a goal and an assist. Saku Koivu, Corey Perry and Andrew Gordon also scored for the Ducks as they posted their first win in four exhibition outings.
The Ducks dressed a predominantly veteran lineup that included the top line of Hart Trophy winner Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. The Canucks countered with a lineup comprised mainly of rookies and minor-leaguers.
Vancouver managed only two shots in the first 10 minutes, but the game was close until the Ducks scored two goals less than a minute apart late in the second.
Anaheim led 1-0 after the first period and 4-0 after the second, when Hiller made a number of stellar stops as the Ducks were outshot 12-7.
“(Hiller) played great,” said Fowler. “He made some big stops early on in the game that helped us gain momentum. So we owe a lot of this win to him.”
Kevin Connauton scored the lone goal for Vancouver. Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider suffered the loss while going the distance.
Hiller’s vertigo symptoms arose after he took a shot on the mask during the all-star game in February. He tried to return as the Ducks sought various forms of medical assistance, including a Vancouver chiropractor, but nothing worked.
He tried to rest during the summer and did not return to the ice until a goaltending camp in his native Switzerland run by Quebec butterfly specialist Francois Allaire in July. He credits the experience with helping him get reacquainted with his technique.
Hiller said he left the game early by choice after coach Randy Carlyle gave him the option of playing two periods or three.
“I felt a little tired after the second and I didn’t want to do it,” said Hiller. “My hips were getting a little tired and I didn’t really want to stretch or pull something.”
Koivu opened the scoring 15:29 into the game as he beat Schneider on a shot that appeared to be deflected. It was the only blemish of the period against Schneider, who made a number of difficult saves in the first 20 minutes. Lubomir Visnovsky was foiled twice by the Canucks goaltender and also hit the post.
Fowler put Anaheim ahead 2-0 midway through the second period on another shot that hit a stick and fooled Schneider.
Perry increased Anaheim’s lead to 3-0 on a power play at 18:05. Standing on Schneider’s doorstep, he tapped in Getzlaf’s pass from the side boards. Vancouver’s Niko Dimitrakos, who is also on a tryout, was serving a delay-of-game penalty for whacking the puck over the glass when it was in midair and well above his head.
Then 54 seconds later, Gordon wired a high shot over Schneider’s glove, giving the Ducks a four-goal cushion after 40 minutes.
“It’s definitely something that I can build on,” said Hiller. “I’m not feeling the same way I felt before the all-star game, when I was probably playing at my best. But it’s the beginning of the year. I’d rather play like that in the playoffs.”
Notes: Second-year pro Bill Sweatt played his first pre-season game for Vancouver after being sidelined with an undisclosed injury during a rookie tournament in Penticton, B.C., earlier this month.