CHICAGO – Overtime must be getting old for the Chicago Blackhawks, so they opted not to go to past regulation on Friday night against the visiting Anaheim Ducks.
Rather than putting their fans through another nail-biting finish in OT or a shootout – like they'd done in five of their previous six games – the Hawks took care of business in an orderly manner by downing the Ducks 4-1 in front 21,258 at the United Center.
Jamal Mayers, Marian Hossa and Dave Bolland scored goals in the first two periods, Patrick Sharp connected in the third and goalie Ray Emery came up with a sterling performance against the Ducks (9-17-5) –with whom he made an impressive comeback last season after a career-threatening hip injury.
Emery lost his shutout bid late in the third when Teemu Selanne scored his 10th goal of the season, but didn't mind after making the Hawks roster on a free agent tryout bid in training camp and then working his way into the starting role of late.
"I'll just take the win, that's good," said Emery, who picked up his fourth straight victory and fifth in the last six games. "It's fun playing for sure. I don't take anything for granted and you never know how things are going to go. If you expect something and you're not willing to work for it, you don't get it. I'm taking it one game at a time and every time I get in there I just want to do my best."
Emery made 24 saves – including several big stops to help kill off Anaheim power plays in the first two periods. He also picked up an assist on Bolland's goal late in the second that made it 3-0. The fact it happened against his former team – which didn't bring him back after he helped backstop the Ducks to the playoffs last spring – was added satisfaction.
"You can't look at that too much," Emery said. "But obviously there's a competitive thing there and anytime you play against an old team you want to win, for sure."
The Hawks (20-8-4), who are now tied with the Minnesota Wild for the most points in the League at 44, made sure Emery got that win. They got big nights from Hossa and Sharp, each of whom had a goal and an assist, but also got production out of the fourth line.
Mayers scored the game's first goal at 6:37 of the first by banging a puck off Jonas Hiller's blocker into the net from the side of the goal, and 6-foot-8, 270-pound John Scott picked up his first assist of the season (fourth of his career) on the play. Scott also dominated a fight against Anaheim's Sheldon Brookbank in the second and nearly got a breakaway scoring chance in the third – which would've been a chance for the coveted Gordie Howe hat trick.
"I almost had a breakaway pass there just a little ahead of me, so I was definitely thinking about it after the second period," Scott said. "I can't get greedy. One assist is good enough for me."
As it was, Scott was named one of the game's stars and awarded the team's championship belt for player of the game. It was also the first time Scott's ever been named one of the stars of the game in the NHL.
"That's pretty cool," he said. "I didn't believe them at first, but it was neat."
Watching Hossa and Sharp work together has been pretty neat as well. They assisted on each other's goals and continued torrid stretches offensively. Hossa has scored in two straight games and four of the last six – with nine points in that span – while Sharp has a career-high eight-game point streak going and has scored 12 goals and 21 points in the past 16 games.
The Hawks, however, had this one salted away by the time Sharp scored midway through the third to make it 4-0. He skated through about four Ducks near the Anaheim blue line to the right circle untouched, untouched and fired a shot that beat Hiller (20 saves) high to the far side.
Long before that, the building was jumping to start the game after a louder-than-usual national anthem whipped fans into a frenzy. The Hawks fed off the energy and needed it to kill off an early Ducks power play. The lift carried over to even-strength, which led to some good work by Chicago's fourth line and Mayers' goal.
Hossa extended Chicago's lead to 2-0 just 1:07 into the second with his 14th goal. After Sharp tipped a turnover to him in the low slot, Hossa then backhanded the puck through Hiller's pads.
Things heated up about six minutes later, starting with the fight between Scott and Brookbank. It was Scott's first scrap of the season and he controlled it.
The building erupted again less than a minute later, when it appeared that a puck deflected off Bolland's left skate and got past Hiller. The goal was waved off, however, when referee Eric Furlatt ruled that Bolland made contact with Hiller before the puck crossed the goal line.
Bolland then got one that counted at 17:19 of the second when he scored his eighth goal just 19 seconds into a power play. Hawks defenseman Nick Leddy's impressive individual effort led to the scoring chance. After getting the puck from Emery, Leddy carried it up the ice into the Anaheim zone and fired a perfect pass to Bolland filling the slot uncovered. Bolland wristed a hard shot over Hiller's shoulder for a 3-0 lead.
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau was disappointed with the mental miscues that led to a couple of the Chicago goals along with the Ducks' continued issues hitting the net when they shoot. Anaheim was credited with six shots in the first period but missed on nine others. For the game, they missed 17 times and had 17 other shots blocked to finish with 25 shots on goal – one more than the Hawks.
"(The net's) four (feet) by six (feet) and I'm assuming they're trying to pick, like, two-inch circles instead of just shooting it at the net and going to the net and getting a rebound," Boudreau said. "When you have trouble scoring, you can't shoot at minute little areas. It's like if you're a pitcher and you're struggling with your control. You're not trying to pick corners. You're just trying to pick thirds of the plate to get it over. It's not good."
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