By Brad Gardner
The Blackhawks wrapped up their four-game road trip with one last stop in Anaheim on Wednesday night. The second meeting of the season between the league’s top two teams lived up to the billing, delivering a back-and-forth affair that saw each team carry play for stretches. After besting the Blackhawks in a shootout in the first meeting of the season, the Ducks mounted a third period rally to beat the ‘Hawks in regulation time by a score of 4-2.
Teemu Selanne’s third period goal proved to be the game-winner for Anaheim, who extended their current point streak to 12 games. They did so in front of a home crowd of 17, 610, the largest crowd at the Honda Center in team history.
The Blackhawks received goals from Jonathan Toews and Nick Leddy, both of whom had overall excellent games, but it was not enough. Corey Crawford stopped 22 of 25 shots in the loss as the Blackhawks fell to 3-1-0 to close out the road trip.
The Ducks struck first less than 90 seconds into the game. A botched exchange between Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook kept the ‘Hawks hemmed into their own zone. Anaheim defenseman Luca Sbisa took a hard shot that went wide, but the puck rebounded off the end boards and back out in front of the net. Patrick Holland found the loose puck and an open net, putting the Ducks up 1-0 early.
Brandon Bollig took a retaliatory penalty shortly after and the Blackhawks penalty kill, which has not inspired a ton of confidence of late, was tasked with keeping the team within one.
Jonathan Toews did one better with a shorthanded goal. He had a step on the Ducks in the neutral zone and was able to out-skate a couple players for a breakaway on Hiller. Toews settled the puck with his last move to the forehand and he was able to reach wide and tuck the puck around Hiller’s skate.
The Anaheim power play was relatively neutralized during the remainder of the advantage, but the Ducks still managed to spend most of the remainder of the first period in the Chicago zone. The home team out-shot the visitors 11-5 and out-hit them 18-8 in the opening frame, but the two teams were nonetheless tied 1-1 going into the first intermission.
The Blackhawks earned their first power play opportunity a couple minutes into the second period, but the better looks continued to come in the Chicago zone. Anaheim wound up with the only shot during the first Chicago power play.
Toews drew a second penalty midway through the period after he nearly scored on another bull rush to the net. Sheldon Souray latched onto him but couldn’t even slow Toews down. He deked Hiller well enough and had an open net, but the puck rolled off the end of his stick before he could take the shot.
The power play unit bounced back and at the 11:54 mark of the second period, gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the game. Nick Leddy took a slap shot that made it through traffic and past Hiller. Viktor Stalberg didn’t get an assist on the play, but it was his screen that kept Hiller from getting even a glimpse of Leddy’s slap shot.
The Blackhawks came close to extending the lead around six minutes into the third period. Late in a fourth line shift, a fresh Toews got the puck to the net while Brandon Bollig and Michael Frolik buzzed by. The puck wound up in the back of the net and it was called a good goal on the ice, but through video review it was determined that Bollig knocked the puck in with a distinct kicking motion.
Crawford came up with a few big saves to keep the game at 2-1 in the third period, but is inability to control a low hard shot from Ryan Getzlaf gave the Ducks the opportunity they needed. Bobby Ryan jumped on the loose puck and was able to beat Crawford to tie the game 2-2 with five and a half minutes left to play in regulation.
Teemu Selanne put the Ducks back on top about a minute later. A neutral zone turnover from Brandon Saad led to a 2-on-1 for Getzlaf and Selanne. Getzlaf was able to slip the pass by the outstretched leg of Oduya and Selanne had plenty of net to give the home team the 3-2 lead.
The Blackhawks did not muster many more chances down the stretch and Souray eventually iced the game with an empty-net goal from three-quarters of the way down the ice, giving the Ducks a 4-2 win.
– The loss was Chicago’s first in regulation after taking a lead into the third period.
– Toews’ goal was his 15th of the season, which pulled him within one of the Kane for the team lead, and his second shorthanded goal.
– Bollig came close to his first NHL goal, but that was about as distinct a kicking motion as you’ll see. On the faceoff following the Selanne goal, Bollig lucked out that the refs missed what should have been at least a double-minor when he got his stick up into Andrew Cogliano’s mouth.
– Daniel Carcillo started the game on the first line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews, but lasted all of two shifts in the first period. Carcillo finished with 2:26. Patrick Kane was double-shifted for most of the game on both the Toews line and in his usual position on the Bolland line. Kane led all Blackhawks with 25:15 of ice time.
– 3 stars of the game: 3. Jonathan Toews… 2. Cam Fowler… 1. Ryan Getzlaf.
– Marian Hossa did not play Wednesday after leaving Monday’s game early with an upper-body injury. Chicago’s other scratches were Jamal Mayers and Michael Rozsival, presumably so that Sheldon Brookbank could suit up against his former team. The Ducks were without Corey Perry, who served the final game of his four-game suspension for his headshot on Minnesota’s Jason Zucker.
– The Blackhawks will return to Chicago following the game in Anaheim and have four days off before their next game on Monday, March 25th in which they will host the Los Angeles Kings in a 7pm central start.