ANAHEIM, Calif. – For the second straight game, the Chicago Blackhawks lost a key member of their defence because of a vicious check against the boards behind the net.
To add insult to injury, Anaheim’s Saku Koivu scored the go-ahead goal late in the third period – just seconds after a blind-side cross-check by Corey Perry against defenceman Brent Sopel that easily could have been called interference. As a result, the Ducks won 4-2 Wednesday night and handed the Blackhawks their third straight loss – preventing them from tying idle San Jose for the Western Conference lead.
“We’ll take the winning goal any we can get it – and those two points,” Koivu said.
The play started when Lubomir Visnovsky’s shot from just inside the blue line was deflected high in the air, and Sopel was cross-checked to the ice by Perry as they waited for the puck to come down. Perry then got the puck to Koivu, whose 20-foot wrist shot beat Corey Crawford with 5:36 remaining.
“I thought it was definitely going to be a penalty. It was pretty evident,” Sopel said. “I was jumping for the puck and he pushed me down. You can’t do that. You’ve got to blow it down. You can’t let it go in the slot like that and let them score a goal.”
Anaheim defenceman James Wisniewski knocked Brent Seabrook out of the game less than 2½ minutes into the second period. Wisniewski began his NHL career with the Blackhawks before getting traded to the Ducks in March 2009.
He drove his ex-teammate into the glass behind the Chicago net with a vicious shot to the jaw, causing Seabrook’s head to strike the glass with enough force that it left him with a dazed expression a couple of seconds before he crumpled to the ice.
“That’s the way Wiz plays. He plays hard. But I don’t like to see one of our guys get hit like that,” said Duncan Keith, who immediately engaged Wisniewski in a fight. “I used to play with Wiz and I know he’s competitive. He was sticking up for a teammate. I mean, I’m not going to beat Wiz up, but I tried to do whatever I could.”
Wisniewski’s hit was payback for Seabrook’s aggressive check on Perry seconds earlier in almost the same spot on the ice.
“We’re not happy about that, obviously. A lot of guys in this room know the guy that did it, and it becomes pretty personal when something like that happens,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “I don’t understand how the referees can see something like that and don’t identify the fact that he’s trying to hurt one of our players. He wasn’t skating in from the blue-line for any other reason than to run Seebs over and take the liberty on him.”
Todd Marchant had a short-handed goal and Bobby Ryan scored twice on his 23rd birthday, including an empty-netter in the final minute. Jonas Hiller made 39 saves for the Ducks, who won the season series 3-1 and are 16-4-2 in their last 22 meetings with Chicago.
“Wisniewski had two fights tonight. He was probably the first star in our minds, as far as involvement in the game,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “It was probably the best game he’s played as a Duck. It was an emotional game. We knew they were going to be a grouchy hockey club, coming in here having lost their last two games. But we have to be grouchy in the situation we’re in.”
The Central Division-leading Blackhawks began a three-game road trip without three-time all-star defenceman Brian Campbell, out with a fractured collar bone and broken rib after he was checked into the boards from behind by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. So this latest incident only made them angrier.
Campbell’s consecutive-game streak ended at 388, the second-longest among current defencemen. The last time the 10-year veteran missed a game was Oct. 28, 2005 with the Buffalo Sabres and is expected to be sidelined about seven to eight weeks.
Ovechkin received a five-minute boarding penalty and his third game misconduct of the season, along with a subsequent two-game suspension. The Blackhawks are hoping Wisniewski gets suspended as well.
“It was a dirty hit, no question about it,” said former Anaheim defenceman Nick Boynton, who also got into a fight with Wisniewski right after Ryan’s empty-net goal. “The Ovechkin hit wasn’t questionable, and this one wasn’t questionable. It’s up to the league to take care of that.”
Seabrook and Marian Hossa scored for Chicago, and Crawford made 32 saves after getting called up from Rockford of the AHL on an emergency basis.
NOTES: Ryan joined Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya as the only players in Ducks history with 30 or more goals in consecutive seasons. … Two seasons ago, Crawford beat the Ducks 3-0 at Chicago for his first NHL shutout. It came in his second career start – and his first in more than two years. … Hossa’s goal was his 21st this season and 12th in 19 career games against Anaheim.