CHICAGO — So sad, so unfortunate that the final 14 games of the regular season for the Anaheim Ducks will be Blackhawk-less.
Three games between the Ducks and Chicago produced three chapters of riveting hockey theater, all featuring slightly different plots with the same ending.
The Ducks won Part 3 with defenseman Sheldon Souray's blast from the left point with 2 minutes 8 seconds remaining in regulation, beating the Blackhawks, 2-1, Friday night at the United Center, sweeping their season series, three games to none. It was the first victory in five games for the Ducks.
Chicago, the leader in the Western Conference, was the right opponent at the right time for Anaheim.
"I truly believe that. The four games we lost was a hiccup and a skid," said Ducks winger Bobby Ryan, who assisted on Corey Perry's second-period goal, which made it 1-0, at 1:15.
"The locker room hasn't been feeling great about itself, but there's no problem getting up for a game like this. When that happens, you can get down on yourself and you can start to not believe."
Said Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau: "Now it's like, 'OK, the monkey's off our back,' type thing. I'm not saying it's completely off, but for a day and a half, they're going to feel a lot better about themselves."
Souray's hard shot from the point — a weapon of well-known power — broke the stick of Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson — and deflected past Chicago goalie Ray Emery.
An angered Hjalmarsson tossed what was remaining of his stick away toward the boards.
Souray, who scored his seventh of the season, had played the puck off the boards before the shot.
"I played pool once or twice when I was a kid," Souray said.
He didn't waste much time.
"I had some time at that point and I didn't want to let someone get in the lane and get blocked," he said. "I've had a few of those lately too. That's not helping anyone. Getzy [Ryan Getzlaf] and Bobby [Ryan] were around the net, so if I would have got it on net there would have been a rebound it would have been there. That was the idea. Not really shooting to score there."
Both goalies were sharp. Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller was the difference in the game, according to Souray. The only goal to get past Hiller was by Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, on the power play, early in the third period, at 2:26, a few seconds after Emery's big save on Daniel Winnik's short-handed bid.
The game looked destined to head to overtime before Souray's blast. Boudreau joked that Souray shoots the puck faster than he skates.
As for Hiller, he just wants to survive practices against Souray, intact.
"He's definitely shoots hard," said Hiller said, who faced 26 shots. "Sometimes, I'm a little scared, to be honest. He definitely knows how to shoot the puck. Probably better than anybody in the league. At the same time, it's always a challenge in practice. You always hope not to get to hit in the head.
"I don't think he can not shoot hard. No matter how he shoots, it's always hard."
And so, the three games between the teams met the hype. The Ducks won here in a shootout on Feb. 12, and beat the Blackhawks, 4-2, at Anaheim on March 20 before their slide and significant first-period struggles. It's too bad that it could be a long maddening wait until they might meet in the playoffs.
Even the defenseman with the shattered stick was hoping for a playoff rematch.
"I hope so," Hjalmarsson said. "I hope we're playing them in the playoffs. It would be fun. It's been tight games every single game. We know we can play against these guys."