When the Anaheim Ducks took to the ice on January 2, 2011 to face the Chicago Blackhawks, not only was it their start to the New Year, but it also marked the commencement of the second half of the season for them.
On New Year’s Eve, the Ducks beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-2, and closed out the calendar year and first half of their season with a win. They were hoping the match up against the Blackhawks would have the same result and start the second half of the season off with a bang. The Ducks were only the second team to start their second half of the season, the other being the Atlanta Thrashers (and only by a couple hours).
The Pacific division is notorious for being close in standing and the Ducks started the night with 44 points and in fourth place in the division and ninth in the Western conference. A win would move the Ducks to third in the division and fifth in the division, which would be a crucial motivator at making a playoff run.
Multiple Ducks personnel commented on the fact that the Ducks missing the playoffs last season was a fluke and that they do whatever they could to prevent that from happening two years in a row. However, the most would agree that the Ducks first half of the season was less than impressive, finishing 20-17-4.
The Ducks knew it was going to be challenge due to the fact that they had lost their two previous games against the Blackhawks. The loss of captain Ryan Getzlaf (multiple nasal fractures) during the December 28 game on the road at the Phoenix Coyotes, was not going to help either. On the other hand, the Blackhawks had had some misfortune of their own their own recently, lost their two previous games, and the loss of their captain Jonathan Toews (shoulder) on the same day Getzlaf got injured in a road game against the St. Louis Blues.
About midway into the opening period, Andreas Lilja scored his first goal as a Duck, giving the Ducks the upper-hand, but the first period ended tied at one when Bryan Bickell got one past goaltender Jonas Hiller with just under two minutes remaining.
However, the Ducks got the lead back when Corey Perry scored his 21st goal of the season just 1:46 into the middle stanza.
Perry’s goal ended up being the game winner and the Ducks got the victory they were looking for. Hiller came up big for the Ducks stopping 39 shots — including a near-goal from Jack Skille that ended up under review. It was no surprise that Hiller was the game’s first star.
“It’s always great to get a couple of wins in a row and we got to keep building,” declared Hiller. “At the end, you win as a team and lose as a team. We’re playing as a team right now and that is why we are winning.”
His teammates thought a bit differently.
“Hillsy stole the game for us,” said Perry. That’s why he’s back there and that’s why he’s our go to guy.”
“Hillsy was the final frontier there and stopped everything,” said defenseman Toni Lydman, who was the second star of the game.
“The guy had to stand on his head,” added head coach Randy Carlyle. “He made some highlight reel stops and really saved our butts.”
The Ducks have now won three in a row and will continue their home stand on Wednesday against the Nashville Predators.