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The Anaheim Ducks' Francois Beauchemin (23) hits the Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews (19) in the second period on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, at the United Center in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Ducks fall to Blackhawks as astounding stretch ends

CHICAGO -- Some things simply must end as they began.

The Ducks turned the NHL on its ear by winning 18 of 19 games to do something a Stanley Cup champion did 46 years ago. An amazing stretch started on a cold Windy City night and reached its completion six weeks later on an equally chilly Friday night.

Marian Hossa scored twice and his empty-net tally in the final seconds allowed the reigning Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to hold off a Ducks comeback and win, 4-2, in a battle between the league's elite at United Center.

The Ducks (36-9-5) saw their eight-game winning streak end and lost for the second time in 20 games dating to their 3-2 shootout win over Chicago on Dec. 6. Only the 1967-68 Montreal Canadiens had a similar 18-1 tear, ultimately winning 20 of 21.

Disappointment was in the air but it was more about the inability to show the Blackhawks their best than watching the hottest run in club history end. Hossa and Kris Versteeg scored in the first period and the Ducks offered little until they were down, 3-0.

Ryan Getzlaf and Kyle Palmieri both beat Chicago goalie Corey Crawford in a 53-second span to cut it to 3-2 with 5:20 remaining. But the Ducks ended with just 21 shots on goal, 10 coming in the third.

"We expected them to come out the way they did and we just didn't respond well," Getzlaf said. "We looked tired. We didn't skate very well at the start of the game. And they did. And that was the difference in the hockey game."

Another impressive streak ended as Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller lost for the first time in 15 starts. Hiller stopped 31 of 34 shots but was also beaten by Bryan Bickell in the third.

"I guess if you're first in the standings, everybody wants to chase you and win against you," Hiller said. "That's not nothing new, but at the same time, I think we talked about it. We just weren't good enough."

SOURAY OUT FOR SEASON

Ducks defenseman Sheldon Souray underwent surgery to relieve symptoms of arthritis in his right wrist that is related to the ligaments he tore this summer, the club announced Friday in a statement.

Souray will not play this season but the bigger question is whether the 13-year NHL veteran will be able to continue his career. Arthritis developed in his wrist as he tried to recover from an initial surgery in July to repair ligaments that were completely torn during an off-ice workout.

The surgery that was performed by Dr. Steve Shin at Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles is one that was under consideration this summer but Souray opted for the procedure that he hoped would get him back on the ice with the Ducks by midseason.

"There's two surgeries you could do," Souray told the Register in late November. "One would end my career and one was this one. We'll try to get the maximum benefit out of this. But to do that, it takes time. That's just how it is."

Souray, 37, held out hope for a return by the Olympic break next month but pain and discomfort in the wrist would not subside and stalled his recovery process. He is in the second of a three-year deal with the Ducks and has had previous wrist issues in his career.

"This is a difficult situation for Sheldon and a tough loss for the team," Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. "Sheldon has been in pain for quite some time. This surgery was his best course of action in order to alleviate pain and discomfort, and regain full mobility in his wrist.

"Sheldon's long-term health is the most important issue right now, and we support his difficult decision to have this surgery."

Souray has 109 goals and 191 assists with New Jersey, Montreal, Edmonton, Dallas and the Ducks. He had seven goals, 10 assists and a plus-19 rating in his first season with the Ducks after signing as a free agent in 2012.

In November, Souray had envisioned being healthy and available for the Ducks' push toward the Stanley Cup playoffs. But there was also a realistic tinge to his optimism that he is now dealing with as the pain never subsided.

"If you don't have something to shoot for, then you're just in no man's land," Souray said. "I'm not going to come back at that date if I'm 98 percent.

"I have to be healthy at my age and with the way things are going and the kind of game I play and what I have to do to be effective, I have to be healthy."

YOUNG DEFENDERS

The Ducks not only weren't counting on Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen to become fixtures in their defense corps when training camp broke. Now they're also getting a strong level of offensive production from the two rookies.

Lindholm and Vatanen have combined for 11 goals and 31 points through the first 50 games. Both have also put up numbers despite missing a handful of contests as occasional healthy scratches, particularly in Vatanen's case.

Vatanen's six goals lead the Ducks defensemen. Lindholm has five. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said they have surprised him "because we didn't know what to expect."

"If we're talking mid-August, I have no idea," he continued. "But Hampus, from Day 1, has given us an offensive jump. He jumps into the play. He doesn't have any fear. Neither does Sami, quite frankly, of jumping into the play.

"It's really helps your offense if your defense can score."

GIBSON SENT DOWN

The Ducks assigned goalie John Gibson back to Norfolk (AHL) and loaned defenseman Luca Sbisa to the Admirals on a conditioning assignment.

Though there was much anticipation outside of Anaheim that he could make his NHL debut, Gibson did not appear in a game during his week with the Ducks as either Jonas Hiller or Frederik Andersen drew the starts.

Sbisa has played in just nine games after dealing with his second major injury this season. He has been out since Nov. 22 after tearing a tendon in his right hand during a fight with Tampa Bay's Radko Gudas.

"We figure he's healthy enough to play," Boudreau said. "Let's get him into a couple of games before we have to recall him."

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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