Jonas Hiller, playing less than 24 hours after a victory in Nashville, “won the hockey game for us” in the words of Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle.
It was tough to argue with that assessment after Hiller turned aside 42 shots, including 34 over the final two periods, to preserve the Ducks’ fourth straight victory. Hiller has started all four, allowing just six goals, to improve his season record to 15-12-3.
“I can definitely say it was one of my best games this year,” he said. “We played pretty solid defensively. I saw most of the shots. We were cleaning the rebounds. It was a big effort from everybody.”
Corey Perry, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne scored the Ducks’ goals, with Selanne’s landing into an empty net with 26 seconds left.
Perry notched a power-play goal at 7:29 of the first period, recovering a loose puck and walking it out from behind the net, then angling it past Antti Niemi for the 1-0 lead. Koivu was stationed in the slot at 16:39 of the first period to redirect a hard pass by Bobby Ryan from the left faceoff circle.
The 2-0 lead held until Duncan Keith blasted a high a one-timer past Hiller from the left point, with the Blackhawks on a power play at 15:07 of the third period.
The Ducks were officially credited with just 12 shots on goal, and just two in the third period. But by taking advantage of their first power-play opportunity, and watching Hiller protect the lead, they were able to play with confidence.
“When our power play gets us going early, it’s a big momentum swing for us,” Perry said. “We talk about that all the time — specialty teams are crucial for us and they win games for us. Our power play has to be good, our penalty kill has to be good, and both of them were good for us tonight.”
The top penalty-killer was Hiller, who saved his best sequence for the 3-minute mark of the third period. On three consecutive shots from close range, he denied Patrick Kane, Troy Brouwer on a wraparound, and Kane again on the final rebound chance.
He got help from a Ducks defense that blocked 16 shots — including seven from the defensive pairing of Ryan Whitney (4) and Steve Eminger (3).
“Hillsie stole the game for us. Simple as that,” said Perry. “They probably had 15-20 scoring chances. He came up huge for us.”
Added Carlyle, “you don’t ask (Hiller) to win the game, you ask him to give you a chance. But he went above that and he won the hockey game for us.”
Carlyle maintained the forward combinations and defense pairings he’s used throughout the Ducks’ current winning streak, and has no reason to change them up as the Ducks return to Southern California for their next four games.
With the Boston Bruins coming to town Wednesday, the Ducks (20-19-7) sit in 12th place in the Western Conference standings, six points back of the final playoff position. That’s a net gain of six points since the winning streak began.