ANAHEIM, Calif. - Jean-Sebastien Giguere had a touch of the flu and didn't take part in the morning skate, so it was up to rookie Jonas Hiller to give the Anaheim Ducks a solid effort in net. He didn't disappoint.
Hiller made 20 saves in his seventh NHL start and withstood a couple of shots off posts, making an early two-goal lead stand up and leading the defending Stanley Cup champions to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night.
"We're lucky that we have the calibre of goaltending that we have," coach Randy Carlyle said. "Jonas Hiller is a guy the organization felt would be able to come in and provide us with NHL goaltending. He proved that tonight, and he's going to have to prove it all along. That's the reality of the position. Hiller also needs to play more games - not just get the tough hand to deal with when you're playing the second of back-to-backs."
Hiller (3-3-1) signed as a free agent with Anaheim last May after four seasons with Davos of the Swiss National League, where he was a combined 80-52 with 10 ties, a 2.53 goals-against average and 16 shutouts.
He began this season with Anaheim, beating the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 in his NHL debut on Sept. 30 in London while Giguere was recovering from off-season hernia surgery. Hiller was promoted from Portland of the AHL on Nov. 16 when backup Ilya Bryzgalov was placed on waivers.
"Tonight was an example of having a really good goaltender to step in for Jiggy when he can't play," Anaheim defenceman Sean O'Donnell said. "I would say there were probably five or six real nice saves Jonas made in the first period after we made it 1-0. They should have had two or three goals on that one shift."
Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz scored in the first and last minutes of the opening period, sending Chicago to its fourth straight loss and helping the Ducks beat the Blackhawks for the 11th time in 12 meetings. The only loss came in a shootout.
"It's tough when you know you were in the game and you had some chances. But their goalie played unbelievable tonight," Chicago rookie Patrick Kane said. "I don't know how many big saves he had."
For the third time on this three-game road trip, the Blackhawks allowed a goal during the first minute of a period. Perry scored just 16 seconds after the opening faceoff, playing a carom off the end boards and beating Nikolai Khabibulin from the edge of the crease after a one-timer by O'Donnell whistled past the left post.
"For whatever reason, not very often have we scored the first goal. But we build momentum as the game goes along," O'Donnell said. "It's certainly not a habit we want to get into. Our goal has to be to play the way we want to play for 60 minutes."
Kunitz, who had two goals against the Blackhawks in a 5-3 win Dec. 7 in Chicago, made it 2-0 on a power play just 47 seconds before the first intermission. He redirected Perry's 15-foot backhander past Khabibulin's stick for his 13th goal while Kris Versteeg was off for hooking.
Patrick Sharp got Chicago on the board at 1:56 of the second period, scoring his 21st goal and seventh in eight games from just outside the crease. He already has two more goals than he had in 80 games last season.
The Ducks have not allowed a third-period goal in their last nine home games, and no more than one in any of their 21 games at Honda Center this season. As a result, they escaped with their fourth 2-1 win in seven games.
The last time Anaheim allowed a third-period goal at home was Nov. 23, when Phoenix's Radim Vrbata scored on a power play with 1:07 left in regulation and the Coyotes won 4-3 in a shootout.
"Having the last line change obviously helps. That's why it's called home-ice advantage," defenceman Chris Pronger said. "You get to have your matchups and get the guys you want against their top guys."
Khabibulin lost for the eighth time in his last nine starts against the Ducks despite making 30 saves. His backup, Patrick Lalime, is 6-1-0 with a 2.01 goals-against average in seven career starts against Anaheim - the most recent coming in October 2005 with St. Louis.
Notes: The fastest goal in Ducks history came on March 9, 1997, when Paul Kariya beat Colorado goalie Patrick Roy just eight seconds after the opening faceoff. The Ducks managed only one other shot in that first period and settled for a 2-2 tie. ... The record for the fastest goal scored by a Blackhawks opponent from the start of a game was nine seconds, set by Montreal's Henri Richard on Nov. 28, 1965, at Chicago, and equalled by Steve Atkinson on Feb. 24, 1972, at Buffalo. ... Chicago rookie RW Adam Burish, the 282nd overall pick in the 2002 draft, is one of three forwards in the league who have played at least 38 games without scoring a goal this season. The others are Atlanta C Jim Slater and Rangers LW Ryan Hollweg. Burish entered Friday averaging 12 minutes, 23 seconds of ice time, Slater 8:55 and Hollweg 8:31.
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