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Hiller leads Ducks past Sharks

GOALTENDER Jonas Hiller made a spectacular Stanley Cup playoff debut to collect his first career shutout as the Anaheim Ducks shocked the top-ranked San Jose Sharks 2-0 in the opener of their best-of-seven series on Thursday in San Jose.

The Sharks, who finished the regular season with the NHL's best record (53-18-11), blasted 35 shots at Hiller but could not beat the young Swiss netminder as the eighth seeded Ducks drew first blood in their Western Conference quarterfinal.

In other action, the Boston Bruins survived a scare when the Montreal Canadiens rallied from a two-goal deficit but the top seed in the Eastern Conference responded to the threat with a pair of third-period goals to escape with a nervy 4-2 victory.

Martin Havlat forced overtime then scored the game winner just 12 seconds into the extra session in lifting the Chicago Blackhawks to a thrilling 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames.

The Detroit Red Wings launched their bid for back-to-back Stanley Cups with a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were making their playoff debut.

In San Jose, the first playoff series between two Californian teams in more than 40 years quickly turned into a goaltending duel between Hiller and Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov.

Scoreless through two periods, the Ducks finally made the breakthrough five minutes into the third when captain Scott Niedermayer converted a power-play chance to nose Anaheim in front 1-0.

After the goal, the Sharks stepped up the pressure but Hiller refused to crack, Ryan Getzlaf finally providing his netminder a winning cushion with two minutes to play by racing over the blueline and crushing a shot past Nabokov.

"It was sure great to start that way," Hiller said. "I felt comfortable right away. I was happy to show what I'm capable of. But Sunday is a new game that starts 0-0."

In Chicago, Havlat tied the game with 5:33 to play in the third then sent the sell-out crowd of 22,478 at the United Center into a frenzy when he snapped a wrist shot past screened Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff just 12 seconds into overtime.

"It was a great interception, and 'The Ladder' (Chicago forward Andrew Ladd) gave me a great pass, and I just put it in," the Czech-born Havlat said.

The victory was the first in the playoffs for the Blackhawks in seven years.

Havlat's goal equaled the third-fastest overtime goal in playoff history.

Phil Kessel also tallied twice in the Bruins victory over the Montreal Canadiens as the Original Six rivals clashed in the playoffs for the 32nd time.

Deadlocked at 2-2 midway through the third, Boston's hulking defenseman Zdeno Chara ripped a slap shot past Canadiens Carey Price while Kessel clinched the win, shooting into an empty net after Montreal pulled their netminder for an extra-attacker.

The second seeded Red Wings flashed their pedigree by seizing control of Game One with a three-goal second period burst before shutting down the Blue Jackets attack.


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