NHL: Blackhawks beat Ducks in meeting of league's best teams
Anaheim, Calif. • Corey Crawford made 29 saves in his first shutout of the season, and the Chicago Blackhawks pulled within one point of Anaheim for the overall NHL lead with a 2-0 victory over the Ducks on Wednesday night.
Marian Hossa scored in the second period and captain Jonathan Toews added a late goal for the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, who improved to 3-0-2 on their six-game trip before the Olympic break.
Jonas Hiller stopped 23 shots for the Ducks, who have lost four of five. Anaheim also has lost four of its last seven home games after starting the season 20-0-2 at Honda Center.
The two teams had 15 combined Olympians on the Honda Center ice, including five key members of the Canadian team headed to Sochi. In addition, two members of the Swedish team Chicago's Johnny Oduya and Anaheim's Jakob Silfverberg were scratched.
Chicago followed up its victory in Los Angeles two days ago with another solid effort against the Ducks, suggesting the defending champs are hitting their stride right before Sochi.
The Blackhawks also took two of three from Anaheim to wrap up the Western Conference powers' season series. Chicago (35-10-14, 84 points) is right behind Anaheim (40-14-5, 85 points) with one game left before the break.
Chicago mostly did it with defense, a minor surprise in a meeting between two of the NHL's highest-scoring teams. Crawford turned away every chance generated by the Ducks, who hadn't been shut out in their first 56 games this season before getting blanked twice in their last three games by Dallas and Chicago.
Toews wrapped it up with 2:31 to play with a slippery move off the wall. After Hossa grabbed a turnover by Cam Fowler, Toews went to the middle and put a shot underneath Hiller's left arm for his 19th goal.
Anaheim improved its effort from recent games, yet struggled mightily to get clean scoring chances. The Ducks had a 15-3 shots edge early on, but couldn't score during 40 seconds of 5-on-3 play in the scoreless first period.
Just 39 seconds into the second period, Hossa sneaked into Anaheim's defense and beat Hiller for his 24th goal. The Slovak Olympian also had two goals in Chicago's win over the Ducks last month.
The Blackhawks matched the Ducks' effort after the midway point of the game. Anaheim's Daniel Winnik had an outstanding short-handed chance in the slot in the third period, but couldn't settle a bouncing puck in time.
NOTES: Oduya missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury. The Blackhawks didn't immediately elaborate on the seriousness of his injury. ... Hossa has scored in five consecutive games. ... Ducks C Nick Bonino missed his third straight game with an apparent wrist injury. Before the game, Anaheim recalled F Emerson Etem for his first game with the Ducks since Dec. 9.