CHICAGO -- The Anaheim Ducks got exactly what their coach expected from the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night at United Center.
"I think we're going to bring out the best in them," Bruce Boudreau said after the morning skate. "There's no doubt in my mind. In the last 72 hours or 48 hours, we've been getting an awful lot of praise from people in the media. If we think we're just going to throw our jerseys out there and Chicago's going to turn a blind eye, we're in for a rude awakening."
The Ducks didn't exactly do that, but still got that rude awakening in a 4-2 Blackhawks victory that snapped Anaheim's winning streak at eight games. The loss also ended Chicago's five-game losing streak against Anaheim, which lost for just the second time in 20 games.
The Ducks (36-9-5) lead the Blackhawks (31-8-11) by four points in both the Western Conference and NHL standings.
Marian Hossa and Kris Versteeg gave Chicago a 2-0 lead in the first period and Bryan Bickell scored 10:13 into the third to make it 3-0. Hossa added his second of the game into an empty net with 7.6 seconds left to seal it after Ryan Getzlaf and Kyle Palmieri scored 53 seconds apart to make it interesting.
"We didn’t come out and have the start we wanted," said Palmieri. "A couple bounces and it could’ve gone the other way. It would’ve been a different game. Overall, I don’t think we played our best for the first two periods. Against a team like that, you have to bring a 60-minute game."
Corey Crawford made 19 saves and picked up his first win in six games since returning from a lower-body injury that kept him out for 10 games.
Jonas Hiller made 31 saves and played well but took his first loss since Dec. 3, snapping a string of 14 straight wins. He was three short of the NHL record for a single season, set by former Boston Bruins goalie Gilles Gilbert in 1975-76.
Just as Boudreau predicted, the Blackhawks came out flying right off the hop.
They forced Hiller to be at his best on several saves in the first half of the opening period until Hossa finally got one past him at 10:34. The shorthanded goal, which Hossa put short side over Hiller's left pad, rewarded Niklas Hjalmarsson for a slick reverse pass in Chicago's defensive zone that sprung Hossa a 2-on-1 rush with Jonathan Toews.
The goal was the 18th of the season for Hossa and his third in four games.
A fortunate bounce and some hard work by Versteeg turned into Chicago's second goal.
After Versteeg tried to flip a puck toward the net from the corner, Anaheim's Matt Beleskey blocked the puck toward Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen, who had it bounce off him and head toward Hiller. Versteeg swooped in between the two Ducks skaters and popped the puck into the far side with a backhanded chop at 17:06 for his first goal since Dec. 27 and ninth overall.
The goals were big for the Blackhawks, who came into the game with a 23-0-5 record when scoring first but hadn't done so in their past five games.
Chicago drew four penalties on the Ducks in the second period, all resulting in power plays, but couldn't convert any into goals. The Blackhawks wound up going 0-for-5 with the extra man for the game and nearly had their power-play problems come back to haunt them in the third.
After Bickell scored his first goal since Dec. 23, the Ducks made it interesting. Getzlaf turned a turnover into his 24th goal to make it 3-1 at 13:47 and Palmieri cut it to 3-2 at 14:40 with a wrister from the high slot that snuck between Crawford's pads.
"We had nothing to lose going down 2-0 into the third period," Palmieri said. "We just wanted to go out and give it everything we got, and see what happens. We were able to claw back and get within one. Couple bounces and it could’ve been a different game."
Anaheim pressed Crawford and the Chicago defense down the stretch but couldn't get the equalizer before Hossa's empty-netter ended its comeback hopes.
The Ducks face a tough back-to-back turnaround game Saturday at the St. Louis Blues.
"They lost their last game in their own building and it’ll definitely make them hungrier," said Palmieri. "But that’s the best part about hockey. Tomorrow night we get to go out and do it again. Hopefully we get off to a good start and go from there."
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