CHICAGO – If it seems like the Anaheim Ducks have their top line on the ice every other shift change, your eyes are not deceiving you.
A lot of times, it's actually happening. Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan are logging major minutes for the Ducks as the regular season winds down – and for good reason. Anaheim is locked in a frantic battle for a playoff spot in the Western Conference and that top line is showing no signs of slowing up -- regardless of how much ice time they get.
Once again, the trio led the Ducks to a big 2-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night in front of 22,115 at the United Center – with the red-hot Perry scoring a pair of goals for the second straight game to seize the League lead from Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos.
This time, Perry potted both markers – his 43rd and 44th – in the third period, including the game-winner with just 4:30 left. Each was assisted by Getzlaf and Ryan, who also finished with two-point nights.
"It's playoff hockey and we're fighting for our lives," Perry said, when asked to explain his torrid goal-scoring stretch that now stands at 13 in the past nine games. "We know what it takes to win. It's that extra gear that people find. We want to be in the playoffs and as high in the standings as possible – and we're pushing for every inch on the ice, every two points every night."
The two points earned on Saturday night boosted the Ducks (42-28-5) past the Hawks (40-26-8) into the Western Conference's seventh spot, while Chicago slid into the eighth and final spot. Coming off a 5-4 loss to Nashville on Thursday, Anaheim badly wanted this win before heading home to face the Colorado Avalanche on Monday.
That, along with their continued success, is why Ducks coach Randy Carlyle keeps running his top line on the ice so much – nearly every other shift in the third period on Saturday night.
Perry logged a whopping 25:13, Getzlaf played 24:57 and Ryan finished with 21:06.
"We tend to do that," Getzlaf quipped, when asked about playing so much. "We are getting used to it and it's effective. When things are going well you go with it and ride it out. We're getting our rest when we need it and it's been a great little stretch of hockey for us."
It's been a great season for them.
After this game, the Ducks top line now has scored a combined 94 goals (nearly half by Perry) with 218 points and an eye-popping 361 hits. Their production against the Hawks came off some slick passing, but they’re just as likely to muck it up along the boards and around the net for "greasy" goals.
They are also physically dominant when using their size, speed, strength and skill to overwhelm opposing players.
"If you look at the size of the players, the skill set of the players, and the compete level of the players that make up that line, we think it's pretty dynamic," Carlyle said. "They proved again tonight that they're quite capable of taking our hockey club and being leaders."
The Blackhawks are now going to need their leaders to take control over the last nine games – beginning with a road game on Monday against the Central Division leading rival Detroit Red Wings.
Marian Hossa scored the lone goal for the Hawks, who just couldn't get another one to go before Perry's third-period heroics. After staving off two Ducks power plays in the second and leading 1-0 to start the third, dropping this game left a sour taste for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
"Obviously it was frustrating," said Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who along with Brent Seabrook was on the ice for both of Perry's goals. "Going into the third period with the lead, and they get one right away – it's frustrating. [Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan] don't need much opportunity to score, and we gave them a couple chances – and I think maybe I could have done a better job there on the first one. It's tough. They make quick plays on their backhands, and they're tough to read."
Corey Crawford played well for Chicago by making 23 saves, but he was one-upped by Anaheim's Ray Emery, who made 27 saves and picked up the win.
Emery's only goal allowed came off a stroke of luck for Chicago that led to Hossa's 22nd goal and a 1-0 lead. After the puck hit a Ducks player's skate and kicked right to him in the slot, Hossa fired a wrist shot that found the back of the net.
After a scoreless second that featured strong goaltending and defense by both teams, Perry and that top line didn't take long to tie it 1-1 in the third. Perry's 43rd goal just 1:07 into the third came as the result of some crisp passing by Getzlaf and Ryan off the rush in the Chicago zone.
Getzlaf ultimately found Perry with a backhand feed in the low slot and Anaheim's leading scorer redirected it past Crawford into the net. The game-winner also came off a feed from Getzlaf, who slipped a pass to Perry in the low slot and watched him wheel and fire it over Crawford's shoulder for his League-leading 44th marker.
The goals extended Perry's goal-scoring streak to five straight games, not to mention bolstering his candidacy for prestigious individual awards. Getzlaf stretched his assist streak to four games, while Ryan has now recorded a helper in three straight.
"When you get (Perry) around the net, it's pretty to watch," Getzlaf said. "He's not necessarily banging 'em home all the time. He's just that kind of player that's in that area all the time and me and Bobby know that. That's part of our dimension as a line. We try and control the puck as much as we can and let Perry do his work around the net."
1 - 0 CHI
1 - 1 Tie