CHICAGO — The Ducks failed to protect numerous streaks Friday, all because the Chicago Blackhawks were hovering over something more treasured.
In beating the Ducks 4-2 before a sellout United Center crowd, the Blackhawks put the greatest challengers to their Stanley Cup defense in their place.
Gone is Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller's 14-game winning streak, as is the Ducks' run of eight consecutive wins. And they are now 18-2 since their last visit to Chicago on Dec. 6.
"We knew how big it was," Chicago forward Marian Hossa said after scoring the game's opening goal short-handed, and its last on an empty net that stopped a furious Ducks' rally of two goals late in the third period. "We were prepared."
Hiller, after missing Wednesday's game with flu, was stout again, making 31 saves, but he was under barrage as the Blackhawks (31-8-11) put 26 shots on goal to the Ducks' 11 through two periods.
"If you play a team like the Blackhawks, you can't just try to work for half a period and hope you win," Hiller said. "We got outworked, and that has been our staple of the last few games."
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said he saw more energy from Chicago even in pregame warmups, the Blackhawks intent to stop a five-game losing streak to Anaheim.
"We talked about it, said all the things we needed to say, but it's a lot easier to say it in here than out there," Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf said from near the Ducks' dressing room.
Boudreau took it a step further.
"With all the press we've gotten, some guys maybe just weren't ready for this," Boudreau said. "It's a learning experience. To be on top, there's a commitment to staying there, or you don't stay there too long.
"Regular season achievements are … not gratifying. We haven't won anything."
Despite the late goals 53 seconds apart by Getzlaf and Kyle Palmieri, the Ducks (36-9-5) finished with only 21 shots — their second-lowest total of the season.
"It's about gaining ground on them," Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford said after making 19 saves, and dodging a tying goal when Ducks forward Dustin Penner couldn't pull the trigger on an opening in the final two minutes.
"Tough team, a playoff pace, and we were ready for it. Our pace was pretty high for the full 60 minutes and it was a good game for us to see where we need to be with our energy and our details throughout the game."
After Hossa had opened the scoring, Chicago forward Kris Versteeg moved toward a crowded crease later in the first period, his stick beating defenseman Sami Vatanen's to the puck, which sailed past Hiller.
The Ducks were hamstrung by four second-period penalties, including Teemu Selanne's hooking to avert a point-blank shot, Getzlaf's unsportsmanlike conduct and Corey Perry's boarding at the horn.
But even when the Ducks killed off Cam Fowler's cross-checking penalty, they played back on their heels and Chicago went ahead 3-0 when forward Bryan Bickell scored midway through the third period on a shot that bounced off Hiller's right glove and right shoulder into the net.
If Chicago effectively communicated its message of "See you in May," the Ducks left town ready to return.
"We can play with them, we were right there at the end and didn't come close to showing our best," Getzlaf said.
DUCKS AT ST. LOUIS
When: 5 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: KDOC; Radio: AM 830.
ETC.: Ducks defenseman Sheldon Souray, who has missed all season with a torn right wrist tendon, underwent surgery Friday to treat arthritic pain he was suffering in recovery and is out for the season.