In their last two games, the Blackhawks had leads on the Ducks, only to squander them late. But they didn't have to worry about that Friday: they never had the lead in the first place.
Patrick Kane scored a power-play goal early in the third period, but Sheldon Souray was the latest Anaheim player to beat the Blackhawks late in the Ducks’ 2-1 victory at the United Center. The Ducks, who snapped their four-game losing streak, moved within three points of the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks.
Ray Emery suffered his first loss of the season, stopping 22 of 24 shots.
The Blackhawks were looking for redemption against the Ducks, the only team they hadn’t beaten this season. Instead they were relatively flat, generating some momentum here and there but not really sustaining any of it. Then there were the Ducks in the waning minutes again, getting a puck into the Blackhawks’ net again. Denying the Blackhawks points again.
Souray’s winner came with just 2:08 remaining in regulation.
“They were pretty even games, but you look at how close to the finish line (you were) and you come up with nothing, it’s almost hard to imagine,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “No wins and only one point. Disappointing in many ways. Hopefully there are lessons here. Because when the games are on the line, tight games, that’s when we have to be our best.”
The Blackhawks have been good in tight games against just about everyone else in the Western Conference this season. Against the Ducks, however, those final regulation minutes have been a headache. Credit the Ducks, who kept up the pressure and kept attempting to get one past Emery. The final shot that did beat him was a Souray bomb that deflected off Niklas Hjalmarsson’s stick.
“I tried to block it in the end but it went off the stick,” said Hjalmarsson, who said it was a bad night defensively across the board. “We didn’t get pucks deep the way we wanted and gave up too many odd-man rushes. The way we played defense wasn’t good at all tonight.”
Defenseman Duncan Keith said the Blackhawks need to simplify.
[HIGHLIGHTS: Ducks edge Hawks with late goal]
“We just need to be predictable with one another,” he said. “We have to play our system, knowing everyone’s going to do their job. When we’re rolling as a team, everybody’s doing their job. We’re focused on getting pucks out, our defensemen are playing good hockey. That’s what it comes down to: being smart with the puck.”
The Blackhawks didn’t get much off the Ducks this regular season. They had the opportunity to come up with points in each game and finished with just one. Crippling? Hardly. But it’s a wake-up call for a team that, while still in the lead, has some stiff competition closing in behind them.
“We’re just going to try to find our game again, (play) the way we did during the streak. The way we played team defense there, we haven’t been doing that the last couple games,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s been going pretty easy so far with our streak and all of that. You need some ups and downs in a season, and you have to learn from it as a team. That’s what we have to do.”