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Blackhawks blank Ducks behind Crawford's 29 saves

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- Maybe if the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring, the Ducks will have shaken themselves out of their doldrums. For now, the Blackhawks can savor a superb defensive performance against the leader in the NHL overall standings.

Corey Crawford made 29 saves and Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews scored in Chicago's 2-0 victory Wednesday night in front of 17,446 at Honda Center.

Many of those fans were wearing Blackhawks red, and the "Let's Go Hawks!" chants began before their team pulled within one point of the Ducks in the Western Conference standings and the Presidents' Trophy race with one game remaining for each before the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Chicago killed five power plays and blocked 22 shots to improve to 3-0-2 in its six-game stretch away from home before the break.

"It's big for us," Toews said. "I feel like the last month or so there was a lot of games that maybe we didn't play so well, but we were close and we just didn't find a way to get an extra point … these last handful of games on this road trip, we're back to playing that smart team-style game that we want. If we had to win 1-0 tonight, we were going to do it."

Chicago will be without star forward Patrick Kane on Friday against the Phoenix Coyotes because Kane will return to Buffalo after the death of his grandfather on Monday, coach Joel Quenneville said. Defenseman Johnny Oduya didn't play Wednesday and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but Quenneville didn't think it would impact Oduya's participation for Sweden in the Olympics.

Anaheim remains stuck in neutral; the Ducks were shut out for the second time in three games and have lost three straight in regulation for the first time this season. They've also dropped five of seven at home after starting the season 20-0-2 at Honda Center.

This is hardly sky-is-falling adversity for the Ducks, who did have quality chances, notably captain Ryan Getzlaf's flub of Kyle Palmieri's pass and a shorthanded try by Daniel Winnik in the third. Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau was feisty when asked about that adversity in his postgame media session.

"I thought we played a pretty good hockey game for 57 minutes or so, and very easily could have been 1-0 the other way," Boudreau said. "I'm not going to sit here and [complain] about 'We're dying here.' We're still first overall in the League. There's a lot of teams that would love to be in our position right now and we will overcome this. Everybody wants to jump off the bandwagon, go ahead. We're going to be fine. We're going to be there when it counts."

A matchup of the two highest-scoring teams in the League, with a combined 15 Olympians on the ice, produced one goal in the first 57 minutes. The Blackhawks killed 9:10 worth of Anaheim power-play time in the first two periods, including 3:49 of a four-minute high-sticking penalty by Michal Rozsival neat the end of the second period.

The difference was a goal by Hossa 39 seconds into the second, finishing off a terrific breakout by the Blackhawks. Hossa took a pass from Patrick Sharp and outwaited goalie Jonas Hiller across the crease before scoring his 24th goal of the season and third against the Ducks. Toews drove to the net, taking defenseman Cam Fowler with him to free up space for Hossa.

Hossa reportedly took a maintenance day Tuesday.

"I think he likes that strategy," Quenneville said with a grin. "Just come play games, and I think a lot of players probably wouldn't mind that as well. He's got a lot of experience, and he knows his body and he knows when it's game time, he's ready. It was a big night for him and that line was very good as well."

Toews put it away with 2:31 left in regulation when he beat Hiller with a wrist shot for his 19th goal after an egregious turnover by Fowler in the Ducks' zone.

Hiller and Crawford each made top-tier saves. Hiller made a left-to-right pad stop on Kris Versteeg and gloved Toews' shot in the second. Crawford got a piece of a Teemu Selanne's attempt early in the first.

Boudreau had cited a lack of energy in this slump, but that changed despite the loss.

"Tonight was significantly better," Ben Lovejoy said. "It was a step in the right direction, but that's a very good team, and in order for us to beat them, we have to be playing our very best. We're getting closer."

For the second straight game, Chicago withstood a harrowing period. It killed 40 seconds of a 5-on-3 Anaheim power play in which the Ducks put five shots on goal during the scoreless first period. Anaheim had a 15-3 advantage in shots in the first 16 minutes.

Crawford credited his defensemen for reducing second-shot chances. Niklas Hjalmarsson had six blocks and Rozsival had four. Anaheim also missed 18 shots.

"They're a pretty tricky team down low," Crawford said of Anaheim. "They're really good at feeding guys back door and getting those open-net chances. Our D were aware of that, and I thought they played it really well tonight to where the backside play wasn't there for them."

The teams had a combined .720 winning percentage going into the game, the highest percentage by two teams at this stage of the season since the Detroit Red Wings played the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 25, 2009.

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