CHICAGO - In what was likely the biggest game this season for both teams, the Anaheim Ducks snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 at the United Center on Friday.
Ducks defenseman Sheldon Souray scored his seventh goal of the season at 17:52 of the final period to clinch the win for Anaheim.
It was the first loss of the season for Chicago goalie Ray Emery after a career-best 12-0-0 start coming into Friday's game.
In so doing, the Ducks also wound up sweeping the three-game lockout-shortened regular season series with the Blackhawks.
It was a game built more upon defense than offense, as Chicago managed only 26 shots and Anaheim 24.
Anaheim came into Chicago in no mood to play around. You could tell right from the opening faceoff that the Ducks were ready to play a slow, methodical game, picking their spots for the best scoring opportunities - and that's exactly what they did.
Chicago, meanwhile, had won its previous game, but after Friday's loss, the Blackhawks have now lost three of their last four and five of their last nine. It's quite uncharacteristic for a team that had been the hottest club in the league during its first 25 games.
Chicago outshot the Ducks 10-7 in the second period and had its best opportunity to tie things up at 1-1 in the closing seconds, but Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, who is now 12-4-3 on the season, kept the Blackhawks scoreless as time expired.
Finally, just 2:26 into the third period, the Blackhawks tied the score when Patrick Kane nailed his 18th goal, with assists from Duncan Keith and Marcus Kruger.
The goal was a huge relief for the Hawks, as it was their first power play goal in 12 tries over the last three games (including Friday). Unfortunately, it was only Chicago's sixth power play goal in its last 30 man-advantages.
This was a crucial game for both clubs, but perhaps more so for Chicago. Not only had the Ducks beaten the Blackhawks in two previous meetings this season, the Ducks came into the game just five points behind the Hawks.
The Hawks entered with the best record in the NHL (25-4-3), while the Ducks were right behind with the second-best record (22-7-4). Chicago is off to its best start in team history, while Anaheim is off to its second-best start in club annals.
The first period couldn't have been played more evenly, as the Ducks and Blackhawks each took nine shots, faceoffs went 7-6 in Chicago's favor, and there was only one penalty, a two-minute interference call against Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson.
It's not surprising the period wound up scoreless.
Things began to heat up early in the second period as Los Angeles lit the scoring lamp first when forward Corey Perry scored his 11th goal of the season to break the deadlock at 1:15. Perry was assisted on the play by Bobby Ryan and Francois Beauchemin.
The Blackhawks got a bit of revenge less than five minutes later when Perry was whistled for hooking, giving the Hawks their first power play opportunity of the game. However, as has been the case of late, the Blackhawks could not capitalize and remained scoreless.
NOTES: Friday's attendance was 22, 105, a season high for the Blackhawks at the United Center. ... The Ducks won the prior two meetings with the Hawks 4-2 and 3-2. ... There is still no word on when injured Hawks players Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp will return to the lineup. ... The Ducks came into the game with a 40-30-5-1 record in the all-time series with the Blackhawks. ... Chicago plays Sunday at archrival Detroit before returning home Monday against Nashville and then Thursday vs. St. Louis. ... The Ducks play at Columbus on Sunday and at Dallas on Monday before returning home.