CHICAGO – A stronger start and tight defensive effort led to a better result for the Anaheim Ducks.
Sheldon Souray scored with 2:08 left in regulation to break a tie, Jonas Hiller made 25 saves and Anaheim defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 on Friday to end a four-game losing streak.
Souray’s drive through a screen from the left point hit the stick of Chicago defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson and deflected past Ray Emery, who suffered his first loss of the season.
“I just wanted to get it on net,” Souray said. “When you’re out there you just try to get it deep and let them do the work. I just wanted to shoot it quick.”
Souray said that not falling behind in the game was as big a factor for Anaheim as his seventh goal of the season.
During their slide, the Ducks were outscored 9-1 in the first period of the four games and never recovered.
“We wanted to have a good start. It was the focus of our night tonight,” Souray said. “It’s been our Achilles’ heel the last few games. First-period goals have hurt us more than last-period goals.
“We came out to a man and played hard, and we stuck with it. We played with the lead too tonight, which is easier than trying to come back.”
Friday’s game was scoreless after 20 minutes.
Anaheim’s Corey Perry scored at 1:15 of the second period in the meeting of the top two teams in the Western Conference, played before a season-high of 22,105 at the United Center.
Chicago’s Patrick Kane scored a power-play goal at 2:26 of the third to tie it at 1 and extend his point streak to eight games. He has six goals and nine assists during the span.
With the win, Anaheim (23-7-4) improved to 50 points, three behind conference-leading Chicago (25-5-3).
“I think we gained confidence the longer the game went without them scoring,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It was a really good test for us. We’re not out of the woods by any stretch.”
Anaheim, which had been outscored 15-6 during its losing streak, tightened up defensively and checked Chicago closely through much of the game.
“Everybody was ready to work a little harder, to do a little more than the last games,” Hiller said. “We were winning the one-on-one battles again, and that makes a huge difference.”
Emery, 12-1-0 this season, made 22 saves.
“We battled back and got it to 1-1 and then, you know, the last couple minutes, just a funny bounce,” Emery said. “It happens every once in a while. But I thought we played pretty well for the most part.”
The Ducks hadn’t won since March 20, when they rallied late in the third period to beat Chicago 4-2. Anaheim swept its season series from Chicago, winning all three games.
“We had a chance,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “It looked like you might get something out of the game and you come up empty three games in a row. The exact same time of the game. It’s disappointing.”
The Blackhawks played again without two of their top forwards, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, who are out with upper-body injuries. Hossa missed his fourth game and Sharp sat out his ninth.
Both Emery and Hiller made a handful of tough saves in an evenly played, scoreless first period in which both teams had nine shots.
After keeping Chicago off the board in the first on Friday, the Ducks jumped in front 1-0 on Perry’s goal 1:15 into the second.
After skating down the right wing, Perry fired from the outside of the right circle and fooled Emery with a shot that slipped between his pads.
Once they got the lead, the Ducks tightened their defensive coverage and the Blackhawks’ top players struggled to find space in the second period.
Chicago’s Brandon Saad was set up for a prime attempt by Kane about seven minutes into the second, but his shot was blocked by Ryan Getzlaf.
The Blackhawks’ Nick Leddy hit the left post with a drive from the left point midway through the second.
Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan hit the post with a backhand shot with 5:03 left in the period, and then was stopped in-close by Emery’s quick pad save about two minutes later.
Chicago’s Jimmy Hayes missed a point-blank chance in the final minute of the second when Souray deflected his shot.
The Blackhawks broke through on Kane’s power-play goal at 2:26 of the third, scored moments after Emery had made a sprawling save on Daniel Winnik’s short-handed attempt.
After taking a quick pass from Duncan Keith, Kane skated in unchecked halfway from the right point and beat Hiller with high shot into the upper right corner of the net.
Hiller stopped Saad from the slot about seven minutes into the third. Emery made a quick glove save on Ryan, who was left alone 15 feet out in the slot, about three minutes later.
NOTES: Following a 4-0 loss to the Sharks on Wednesday, the Ducks remained in San Jose on Thursday and practiced before travelling to Chicago. The Ducks had planned to fly to Chicago early and practice here, but a flight delay forced them to reschedule. … Anaheim RW Radek Dvorak, who played his first game with the Ducks in San Jose after getting his work visa, was a healthy scratch. … Ducks C Nick Bonino missed his 10th game with a lower-body injury.