VANCOUVER, Canada — It was a bold stroke by Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau, putting 20-year-old John Gibson in goal for his NHL debut Monday night with a division title in the balance.
Sixty complete minutes of hockey later by Gibson and his teammates, Boudreau's move looked like his most brilliant of the season as the Ducks defeated the Vancouver Canucks, 3-0, at Rogers Arena.
Gibson, with 18 saves, became the youngest goalie since Daren Puppa 29 years ago to post a shutout in his NHL debut, as a Ducks' defense Boudreau referred to as "spotty" during Monday's morning skate rose up to protect the youngster with 22 blocked shots.
"Anytime you're sitting there starting a 20-year-old kid, you're sitting there saying, 'Hey, if we don't play good, they could kill this guy,' " Boudreau said. "They really straightened out the problems we've been having.
"I wanted a complete defensive effort from the team. That's what we've been lacking for the last three weeks. It worked out … everyone was so solid defensively."
The victory puts Anaheim three points ahead of San Jose in the Pacific Division with a chance to clinch the title against the visiting Sharks on Wednesday.
It also gives the Ducks the thrill of hockey's No. 2 prospect realizing some potential at an ideal time as primary starter Jonas Hiller was held out of a back-to-back appearance amid his three-game losing streak and 6-9-3 rut since winning 14 straight games earlier this season.
"The team played really well in front of me, made my job easier, only had to make the regular saves," Gibson said. "Everyone realized it was a big game … that's why we had so much success."
Gibson's fellow rookie Frederik Andersen was unavailable on this trip after leaving Friday's game with a headache from a collision.
Boudreau said, "I don't know what it means to the goalie situation."
Gibson said the game's first five minutes "getting your feet wet" were the most anxious.
He was given a 1-0 lead 6 minutes 26 seconds into the game when forward Daniel Winnik stole the puck from defenseman Alexander Edler a few feet in front of the Canucks' net and beat goalie Eddie Lack.
Vancouver only had nine shots on goal through two periods, and was en route to missing 21 shots in all, with the Ducks blocking 22.
Center Nick Bonino threw punches when Vancouver swarmed too close to Gibson. Defenseman Francois Beauchemin encouraged the rookie in breaks. Rookie defenseman Hampus Lindholm intercepted a pass on a two-on-one threat.
Seconds later, defenseman Ben Lovejoy fired a long shot that forward Kyle Palmieri deflected in the net for his 14th goal and a 2-0 lead with 2:57 remaining in the second period.
Matt Beleskey made it 3-0 early in the third, and Gibson said he started thinking shutout, calling it "icing on the cake."
The Ducks also killed three penalties to improve to 21 for 24 when down a man dating to March 20.
Asked when he wants back in, Gibson smiled and responded, "That's not up to me."
The Ducks' five-game season sweep of Vancouver left Canucks' fans chanting for the firing of General Manager Mike Gillis after the team did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time in six years.