Blackhawks take down surging Ducks 4-2
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter January 17, 2014 9:38PM
Updated: February 19, 2014 9:52AM
That whole story line that this game somehow meant more than the others? That it was a clash of titans? That it was sure to be a tense, playoff-like atmosphere?
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith wasn’t buying it.
‘‘Didn’t feel like playoffs to me,’’ he shrugged. ‘‘It’s still January.’’
The Hawks’ 4-2 victory Friday against the Anaheim Ducks didn’t nullify the Ducks’ remarkable run of 18 victories in 19 games, it only ended it. Just like an opposite outcome wouldn’t have eliminated the Hawks from contention for the top seed in the Western Conference.
But what the impressive victory against the NHL’s most dominant team — along with the somewhat-heightened atmosphere that accompanied it — did was rouse the Hawks out of their midseason doldrums and serve as a reminder that they’re still the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
And so the Ducks’ remarkable run ended at the United Center — the same place where it began Dec. 6 — as the Hawks beat them for the first time in six tries.
‘‘We always have trouble playing against this team, and that’s why this win is big,’’ winger Marian Hossa said.
There was plenty for the Hawks to like in this one. They had the fast start they’d been seeking, outshot the Ducks 34-21 and got two more goals from a surging Hossa. Plus, Kris Versteeg and Bryan Bickell snapped lengthy goal droughts.
And while Versteeg missed the third period and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury after colliding with Bickell at the end of the second period, there was little to complain about after a run of what coach Joel Quenneville deemed ‘‘ordinary’’ efforts.
‘‘The last three games here at home, I think we’ve elevated our game back to where we saw [it] most of the season, where we’re playing fast and playing the right way,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘I’d say we’re back on track.’’
Hossa started and finished it for the Hawks. He gave the Hawks their first 1-0 lead in six games with a short-handed goal at 10:34 of the first period, keeping the puck on a two-on-two rush with Jonathan Toews and firing it past goalie Jonas Hiller, who had won 14 games in a row. It was the 28th short-handed goal of Hossa’s career, tying him with Martin St. Louis and Mike Richards for the NHL lead among active players.
Versteeg scored his first goal in 10 games late in the first, and Bickell added his first goal in 11 games midway through the third to make it 3-0.
But the Ducks, who had twice as many penalties (four) as they had shots on goal (two) in the second period, suddenly made a game of it late. Ryan Getzlaf scored a seemingly harmless goal on a three-on-one with 6:13 left in the third period to break up Corey Crawford’s shutout bid. But then Crawford gave up a soft goal to Kyle Palmieri from the high slot with 5:20 left to cut the Hawks’ lead to 3-2.
After some tense moments, Hossa finally put the game away with an empty-net goal with 7.6 seconds left.
‘‘They’re a good team,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘Obviously, you saw they didn’t go away.’’
The victory moved the Hawks four points behind the Ducks for the league lead. And it refocused them just in time, with the Boston Bruins visiting for a Stanley Cup Final rematch Sunday.
But it’s only January, as Keith noted, and the season is barely half over. It’s one good win — nothing more, nothing less.
‘‘With the way they’ve been playing, we’ve heard a lot of talk about them,’’ Keith said. ‘‘They’ve got a great team with a lot of good players, so we wanted to make sure we had a good game. And I thought we did. It was nice to get the win.’’
Nice, not seismic.
Not yet, at least.