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Hiller makes 35 saves for shutout, Ducks stun top-seeded Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Jonas Hiller coolly stopped every puck like a seasoned playoff veteran, showing all the post-season poise that the top-seeded San Jose Sharks still haven't found.

Hiller made 35 saves in a sparkling playoff debut for eighth-seeded Anaheim, 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.

Getzlaf set up captain Scott Niedermayer's tiebreaking power-play goal early in the third before roaring out of the penalty box to score his own goal with 2:25 to play.

With their Swiss goalie's flawless play, the playoff-tested Ducks put an early playoff scare into the Sharks, who won the Presidents' Trophy during the regular season with 117 points.

Evgeni Nabokov made 15 saves for San Jose in the opener of the first post-season series between two California clubs in four decades.

San Jose claimed home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs by winning the Presidents' Trophy for the first time in franchise history, while Anaheim needed a prolonged late-season surge just to reach the post-season. Both teams know those details don't matter much in the post-season, and the Sharks looked like the less-experienced club for most of the night at a largely sombre Shark Tank.

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, who claimed the Ducks' starting job during the second half of the regular season. Coach Randy Carlyle stuck with Hiller instead of going back to Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the 2003 Conn Smythe Trophy winner who watched the game from a folding chair behind the glass opposite the Anaheim bench.

Niedermayer, the Ducks' other Conn Smythe winner, had the touch to break open a scoreless game.

After two scoreless periods, 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 1/2 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 with 2:25 to play, cementing the Ducks' upset victory.

The Sharks' rivalry with the Ducks has simmered for several years while Anaheim made two Stanley Cup finals appearances and San Jose attempted to catch up. The Sharks finally moved ahead this season with a 26-point advantage over the Ducks in the Pacific Division, but enters the playoffs with three consecutive second-round playoff ousters looming over them.

Anaheim surged into the playoffs after nearly giving up at the trade deadline, when the Ducks shipped defensive forward Travis Moen to the Sharks. Moen, who will be a free agent this summer, scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for Anaheim two years ago.

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.

The Ducks had the first two periods' best scoring chance during a power play when Corey Perry drove the net, but Teemu Selanne missed a fairly easy chance to tap home the rebound - awakening memories for Sharks fans of Selanne's near-identical failure for San Jose during Game 7 of a 2002 playoff series against Colorado.

Notes: The Sharks scratched 43-year-old F Claude Lemieux in favour of enforcer Jody Shelley. Lemieux missed 19 of San Jose's final 21 regular-season games with a jaw injury and as a healthy scratch. Shelley barely touched the ice, and Anaheim enforcer George Parros also played sparingly. ... Giguere has the highest playoff winning percentage among active goalies at 33-17 (.660). ... San Jose lost just five games in regulation at the Shark Tank during the regular season.


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