Turning in his best performance of the season, Jonathan Bernier wasn't just good - he was spectacular. Despite being under siege for the better part of the first and second periods, the veteran goaltender saved all 43 shots in a gutsy 1-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The victory served as the 100th win of his NHL career, and moved Anaheim (35-22-10, 80 points) into sole possession of second place over the idle Edmonton Oilers.
Corey Perry busted out of his 10-game goalless drought with the only goal the Ducks would ultimately need, as they put together a two-game winning streak for the first time since January 17-19. The victory also snapped Chicago's seven-game winning streak. Furthermore, the Blackhawks entered tonight's game with wins in 12 of their last 13 games.
"I felt really good and wanted to have a full 60 minutes," said Bernier, who was in net for Anaheim's shootout victory two nights ago against the Nashville Predators. "It's a fun building to play in. We needed those two points."
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf adds, "When you come into this building, you know it's going to be tough. They play a puck-possession game and they had it a lot tonight. We kept them to the outside for the most part and our goalie made some big stops."
Though the opening 20 minutes were scoreless, the ice was heavily tilted in Chicago's favor. An offensive-zone roughing penalty committed by Jared Boll gave the Blackhawks their first of two power plays in the period. Chicago's second power play came in the final three minutes when Getzlaf was given 17 minutes worth of penalties - two minutes for instigating, five minutes for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct for his altercation with Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.
Despite Chicago's offensive onslaught, Bernier stood tall, turning aside all 19 shots in the period. Corey Crawford, meanwhile, only had to make two saves.
"He did great tonight," Getzlaf said, on Bernier's performance. "He battled all night long and made some big saves in the end."
Outshot 30-14 late in the second period, the Ducks struck first when Perry opted for one of his trademark moves. After gaining possession of the puck on his off-wing just inside the zone, Perry cut against the grain to create a better scoring opportunity. After finding an open lane in the high slot, Perry unleashed a snap shot that beat Crawford at the 17:44 mark of the middle frame. After celebrating with his teammates in front of the Ducks bench, Perry flashed a sheepish grin, understandably, with the way the game had unfolded until that point.
Video: ANA@CHI: Perry cuts across slot, wires in wrister
The goal gave Perry 31 career points (14g/17a) in 40 games against the Blackhawks, tops among active Ducks skaters.
"After that goal, we settled in and started playing our game," Bernier said. "The third period was our best. Our PK was unbelievable tonight. We blocked a lot of shots. That's how you have to win on the road."
Bernier rose to the challenge again in the third period, denying multiple point-blank chances from the hard-charging Blackhawks, who had 40 shots on goal with more than two minutes left on the clock.
Bernier saved his best for last, robbing Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin with a desperation blocker save with a sea of bodies crowding the crease. The save came with 1:15 remaining in regulation with the Hawks' net empty at the other end.
He came up big again with 58.1 seconds remaining when he slid from right to left to deny Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews with a left-arm save.
As the final buzzer sounded, Bernier was swarmed by his teammates in celebration. His 43 saves tied his career-high for most saves in a shutout, first set with Toronto on Dec. 23, 2014 at Dallas.
The Ducks will travel immediately to St. Louis to close out their back-to-back set tomorrow night against the Blues.
"We know we can play better as a group, but the important thing is finding a way to win," said Bernier. "We need to turn the page because we have a quick turnaround tomorrow in St. Louis. We have to make sure we're ready."