By Brad Gardner
The Anaheim Ducks completed the season sweep of the Blackhawks on Friday at the United Center with a 2-1 regulation win. Ray Emery suffered his first loss of the season because a Sheldon Souray shot deflected off a Blackhawks defenseman in front of the net for the game-winning goal.
Chicago managed just one of a possible six points against the Western Conference rival Ducks on the season. The Blackhawks still hold a three point lead in the standings with one game in hand over Anaheim, who entered the United Center on Friday in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
The Western Conference’s two best teams played another tight game with little difference when it came to the shots, hits, and blocked shots. Both teams managed nine shots in the opening period but neither was able to solve the opposing goaltender in the first.
Emery had to be sharp early when a Blackhawks turnover in the offensive end quickly went the other way. Corey Perry drove up the right wing and shot for the far side on Emery, but the goalie was able to get a piece of the shot with his left arm.
Jonas Hiller handled the work on his end as well, stopping Patrick Kane twice on one shift as the winger looked to extend his seven-game point streak.
The scoreless game did not last long into the second as Perry earned another chance on an almost identical play to his rush in the first period. A turnover at the blue line led to an outlet pass to Perry up the right wing. This time his wrist shot was able to beat Emery to the far side to put the Ducks up 1-0 just 75 seconds into the second period.
The Chicago power play had a couple chances in the second period to tie the game, but they could not convert. Other than some offensive zone possession time, the unit did not threaten to score many times in the middle frame. One of the better chances was actually for the Ducks, when rookie forward Emerson Etem had a breakaway against Emery, who was able to poke the puck off Etem’s stick before he could make his move.
The third time on the advantage proved to be the charm for Chicago, as Kane knotted the score at 2:26 of the third period. It came after another shorthanded opportunity for Anaheim, this time a Daniel Winnik attempt that just barely caught a piece of Emery while he laid down and out in his crease.
As the puck went the other way, the Blackhawks were able to gain the zone and begin to work on the cycle. Kane picked up a drop pass from Keith near the blue line and took the space in front of him down to the dot. He hit the top corner with his wrist shot to pull the Blackhawks tied 1-1.
The Blackhawks had given up late leads in each of their first two losses against Anaheim this season, but the Kane goal suggested that the home may have an opportunity to turn the tables in their final meeting of the season. Emery came up big against some of Anaheim’s big guns in the third as he foiled attempts from both Perry and Bobby Ryan.
It would not be enough, as Sheldon Souray’s slap shot found it’s way through traffic and past Emery to put Anaheim back on top with only 2:08 left in regulation. Souray pounced on a loose puck near the boards, a couple strides inside the blue line, and sent it towards the net. It deflected off of and broke the stick of Niklas Hjalmarsson in front of the net and the puck deflected over Emery’s glove and into the net.
– The Souray goal was a tough break for Emery in his first loss. He made a couple big plays with his stick against Anaheim rushes and played well enough to keep the game close.
– Patrick Kane led all Blackhawks with both his five shots and 24:08 of ice time. His goal extended his point streak to eight games.
– The power play came through the first time in a few games, but has still only been successful on 2 of their last 16 opportunities in the last five games. For what it’s worth, one of those ‘opportunities’ on Friday night lasted less than four seconds.
– Viktor Stalberg left the game with just over six minutes left in the third period after catching a puck to the face. He was in the line of fire on a Ryan Getlzaf clearing attempt.
– 3 Stars of the Game: 3. Ray Emery… 2. Patrick Kane… 1. Sheldon Souray.
– The Blackahwks final game in March will be Sunday at 11:30am. They’ll travel to Joe Louis Arena for the final time this season to take on the Red Wings.