If there was anyone who would be able to beat the team with the best record in the NHL, it would be the team with the second-best record. That was the case Friday night when Chicago successfully defended home ice against the hottest team to date in the NHL in Anaheim. Having won 18 of their last 19 games (18-1-0) since the beginning of December, they have become the second team in NHL history to do such. The only blemish during that stretch since a shootout loss to Los Angeles December 3 was a 3-1 road loss to San Jose on December 29.
In the game at United Center, Anaheim never got off the right foot. They found themselves trailing 2-0 at the end of each of the first two periods. Marian Hossa opened the scoring midway through the first period with his 18th goal of the season. His goal came shorthanded via Andrew Shaw’s interference penalty. The Blackhawks tacked on another with less than three minutes remaining in the second period when Kris Versteeg scored on the backhand.
The second period was scoreless but Chicago had plenty of scoring opportunities from their three power plays. They also had Anaheim on a 5-on-3 advantage for 30 seconds when Ryan Getzlaf was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Chicago also dominated the shots on goal, leading 26-11 after 40 minutes. The struggles Anaheim had staying out of the penalty box led them to only three shots on Corey Crawford in the second period.
The third period saw two goals by each team, but it was Bryan Bickell scoring his seventh of the season that extended the Chicago lead to 3-0 midway through the third period. Anaheim finally got on the board 3:34 after Bickell’s goal when Getzlaf scored his 24th of the season. Less than a minute later, Kyle Palmieri’s ninth goal of the season made it a 1-goal game with 5:20 remaining in the game.
Despite Anaheim pulling Jonas Hiller for an extra attacker to tie the game, they were unable to score. Hossa did score an empty netter with eight seconds left in the game. Hiller made 31 saves on 34 shots in the losing effort while Crawford made 19 saves on 21 shots.
If your team in the West think they have a chance to catch up to Anaheim before the Olympic break think again. After Saturday’s road tilt at St. Louis, they will play eight straight games in Orange County. Seven of those will be at Honda Center in addition to next weekend’s Stadium Series game against Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. They will leave California the final game before the Olympics when they travel to Nashville.