By Adam Brady
ANAHEIM – In a game that had all the flair and tension expected of a 1 vs. 2 matchup, the Ducks again managed to fall short at Honda Center.
Anaheim’s lead in the NHL standings was trimmed to just a single point at the hands of the second-place Blackhawks, who shut down the Ducks defensively in a 2-0 victory in front of a standing-room-only throng of 17,446.
Marian Hossa’s goal just 39 seconds into the second period and an insurance dagger by Jonathan Toews late in the third buried the Ducks, a once-dominant home team that fell to 1-4-0 on its five-game homestand.
The Blackhawks made things difficult on the Ducks attack all night, blocking 22 shots and stamping out all five power play opportunities as goalie Corey Crawford saved all 29 shots he saw. Anaheim, which has scored five goals or more 16 times this season, has scored just twice in its last three games.
"You’re going to go through highs and lows scoring goals," said Ducks winger Corey Perry. "Right now we’re in a rough patch. We’ve scored one or two goals in the last three games. Especially at home, it doesn’t win hockey games. We had a good effort tonight, but the bounces just didn’t go our way."
Meanwhile, tonight marked the first time the Ducks have lost three straight in regulation all season.
"It was no moral victory, but we did have a much better effort," said Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy. "We ran into a good team with a good goaltender, but we’re out here to win games. I think everybody in the room feels like that was better, but we want to win."
Anaheim and Chicago had a combined .720 winning percentage entering the game, the highest percentage by two teams at this stage of the season since the Detroit Red Wings faced the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 25, 2009.
And this one didn't disappoint. After a scoreless first, Chicago got the game’s first goal just 39 seconds into the second period, as Patrick Sharp fed into the slot to Marian Hossa, who lost Cam Fowler before flipping a shot past goalie Jonas Hiller.
The Ducks had a number of opportunities in the first two periods, but were 0 for 5 on the power play, including a 4-minute man advantage that came from a Michal Rozsival high-sticking infraction near the end of the second.
But they couldn’t cash any of them in, and their attempts to tie the game late was thwarted by Toews, who skated into the slot and slipped a shot under Hiller’s arm with 2:31 left. Hiller kept the Ducks in it with a number of great saves, though the defense in front of him only allowed 25 shots.
"Nobody likes to lose," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "We’ll recover and get back at it tomorrow. I thought we played a pretty good hockey game. It was a 1-0 game for 57 minutes or so. It could’ve very easily been 1-0 the other way, so I’m not going to sit here and [complain] like we’re dying here."
The Ducks still own the NHL's best record at 40-14-5 (85 points), but Chicago is breathing down their necks at 35-10-14 (84 points).
"We’re still in first place overall in the league," Boudreau said. "There are a lot of teams that would love to be in our position right now. We will overcome this and we’re going to be fine. We’re going to be there when it counts."
The Ducks, who had their seven Olympians honored after the game, head to Nashville on Saturday for their last test before the two-week Olympic break.
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