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Ducks blank Blackhawks to end 7-game losing streak

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ANAHEIM — The Ducks snapped their seven-game losing streak and avoided a season-series sweep at the hands of the Central Division’s worst team, dominating the Chicago Blackhawks for a 4-0 victory on Thursday night at Honda Center.

The battle near the bottom of the Western Conference featured the first and second selections in last June’s NHL draft, though Chicago’s Connor Bedard was effectively a non-entity and the Ducks’ Leo Carlsson, who factored into a goal without earning a point, left the game in the second period with an apparent knee injury.

Otherwise, Thursday’s was a motif of relief with milestones reached, firsts achieved, a chain of defeats snapped, two fights won and the hosts’ third victory by a four-goal margin this season.

“I thought we played a team game. There was a little stress. When you lose seven straight, there’s some anxiety involved,” Ducks coach Greg Cronin said. “I thought, the first period, we were a little bit tentative and we weren’t getting shots through. As the game went on, we got more confident.”

Brett Leason scored a goal and assisted on one of Alex Killorn’s two tallies before Frank Vatrano sealed Chicago’s fate with a power-play marker. Lukáš Dostál turned away 29 shots for his first career shutout and the first of the season by any Ducks netminder.

The Ducks were shorthanded just once and killed the penalty. They’ve gone 5 for 6 on the PK in their past two games after a disastrous stretch following the loss of four of their five most deployed penalty killers to trades and injuries.

Arvid Söderblom made 21 saves for Chicago, after earning a 7-2 victory over the Ducks in Chicago on March 12. Bedard had as many penalty minutes (four) as he had shots on net, all of which were gobbled up by Dostál, a rookie who overshadowed the Calder Trophy favorite on Thursday.

“He’s a great young goalie and he’s going to have a lot of shutouts in this league, so it was nice to be there for his first,” Killorn said.

There was no third-period rally for the visitors. They sustained a second loss in a fight when Ryan Strome took down Alex Vlasic, who made the hit on Carlsson, and then surrendered Vatrano’s elusive 30th goal of the season during a five-on-three situation with 9:29 to play. It was the first time in six games the Ducks had scored on a power play.

The Ducks set up Vatrano for a one-timer from the right faceoff circle that he missed wide. When Cam Fowler dished to him anew, he took his time on the dot, changed his angle and tickled the twine. Vatrano had been stuck on 29 tallies since March 1, with his nine-game goal drought entering the match having tied his longest dry spell of the season.

An early two-on-one rush fell by the wayside in the second period for the Ducks, but they went on to pour in three goals, albeit at a cost as they lost Carlsson for the night and possibly longer.

Nine seconds after their power play expired, the Ducks stretched their lead to 3-0. Olen Zellweger passed from the point to below the goal line for Leason, who found Killorn in the right circle. He whipped a shot to the far side for his second goal of the game and 14th of the season with 1:34 left in the period.

Leason was the finisher on the Ducks’ second goal, his 11th of 2023-24, just before the midway mark of the match. Pavel Mintyukov stood Jason Dickinson up at the blue line, knocking the puck to Ben Meyers, who found Leason in space in the defensive zone. He zoomed through the neutral zone and then let fly with a wrist shot that went between Jarred Tinordi’s legs and beat Söderblom inside the far post. Meyers’ assist was his first in the NHL and his first point as a Duck after being acquired from Colorado at the trade deadline.

Between those goals, however, the Ducks lost Carlsson when Vlasic made a knee-on-knee hit on him, though no penalty was called. Carlsson was unable to support his weight on the leg as he left the ice and made his way down the tunnel, ending his evening prematurely and casting doubt on his status moving forward.

If he were to miss time, it would be the fourth injury to sideline 2023’s No. 2 overall pick after beginning the season with a lower-body injury, later spraining his MCL and then sustaining a concussion. He’s one of several Ducks, including Killorn and last year’s leading scorer Trevor Zegras, to sustain multiple injuries this season.

“When it happened, I said to myself, ‘This is just like Groundhog Day with the Ducks this year.’ Hopefully he’s going to recover and he’ll be okay,” Cronin said.

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“He’s a tall, lanky guy. He’s thin, he’s got wide body parts. It’s unfortunate, this one, that he just caught knees,” Cronin added. “He’s taken some other tumbles that haven’t resulted in injuries. I think as he matures and he physically develops some thickness, he’ll be able to skate through these injuries.”

The Ducks had opened the scoring 3:10 into the middle frame, when a clean offensive-zone faceoff win by Carlsson keyed a successful sequence. A D-to-D pass from Urho Vaakanainen to Gustav Lindström created a shot that Killorn redirected into the net.

“We got that first goal and you could feel a lot of weight lift off the bench,” Cronin said.

The opening 20 minutes were relatively silent offensively with the Ducks quieting a strong rush by Bedard and the game’s first penalty as well. They also made a bit of noise, with the sounds of the crowd as well as the thud on the ice when Ross Johnston felled Tinordi in a fight.

“This was a huge game for us. We had some meetings and we wanted to get off this slide, so it was a great response,” Killorn said.

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