While the Chicago Blackhawks captured the sports world's attention with their record start to the regular season, the Anaheim Ducks cruised right along behind them, waiting for their chance to seize the spotlight.
When that opportunity arrived late in the third period Wednesday night, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne absolutely nailed it.
Getzlaf set up Bobby Ryan's tying goal and Selanne's tiebreaker 1:04 apart in the waning minutes, and the Ducks rallied for a 4-2 victory over Chicago in a meeting of the NHL's top two teams.
Jonas Hiller stopped 22 shots, and Peter Holland and Sheldon Souray scored as the Ducks extended their franchise-record home winning streak to 13 games in dramatic fashion. Anaheim (22-3-4) pulled within three points of Chicago atop the overall NHL standings by dealing the Blackhawks just their third regulation loss of the season.
"It means a lot," said Ryan, who scored his ninth goal of the season. "They've made a statement to run away with it so far, and we've quietly just gone about our business. To be three points back with a game in hand is huge. ... It's been a fun ride to be a part of, and I hope it continues."
Getzlaf could barely get out of bed with a case of the flu, lasting just five minutes at the morning skate and taking only one faceoff during the game. The Anaheim captain still delivered two remarkable assists in pressure-packed moments to hand Chicago its third regulation loss in six games after its 21-0-3 start to the season.
"He's playing an MVP season right now, and it's fun to watch," Selanne said.
Getzlaf first fed Ryan on a rush for the tying goal with 5:27 to play before setting up the 42-year-old Selanne for his 670th career goal with 4:23 left, ending the Finnish Flash's nine-game goal drought. Souray added an empty-net goal in the final minute for Anaheim, which has earned points in 12 straight games (9-0-3).
"We don't expect to come back, but we always think we can," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We've got great leadership. Everybody knows their role, and everybody played it."
Nick Leddy scored a power-play goal and captain Jonathan Toews scored an early short-handed goal for the Blackhawks (24-3-3), who have lost after entering the third period with a lead just twice in 19 games this season — both times to the Ducks.
The largest crowd in Honda Center history was packed with boisterous fans of both teams for a prominent game in this lockout-shortened year. Two clubs with a points percentage above .800 had never met this late in an NHL season, and they lived up to their pedigrees in a fast-paced game showcasing their skill and tenacity.
"They obviously have the advantage right now because they've got four points (in their two meetings) and we've got one, so I'm sure they're feeling pretty good," Chicago's Patrick Kane said. "But hopefully we can learn from these games and move forward and become a better team because of it. We've made a couple of mental mistakes lately that have cost us."
Corey Crawford made 22 saves for the Blackhawks, who appeared to be headed for a 2-1 road victory until Anaheim scored three times in stunning style.
Chicago has earned 51 of a possible 60 points in its first 30 games this season, but Anaheim is responsible for a third of those missed points after this win and a 3-2 shootout victory at the United Center last month. The Ducks and Blackhawks finish their regular-season series March 29 in Chicago.
"They've been having a great season, but they've just been under the radar because of our streak and the way we've been playing," Kane said. "But they're a great team, and we're going to be ready for them next time."
Both teams played this showdown without key offensive components. Ducks right wing Corey Perry finished his four-game suspension for an illegal hit, while Chicago's Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp sat out with injuries.
After Leddy put the Blackhawks ahead on his 22nd birthday during a power play midway through the second period, Chicago appeared to extend its lead when Brandon Bollig scored in front of Hiller with 14:03 to play. Instead, video review confirmed Bollig kicked the puck into the net with his right skate.
"It's frustrating, considering we thought we were looking at a 3-1 lead at one point," Toews said. "We have to keep working and doing the right things. We played good enough to win, but made a few mistakes in the last five minutes, and they made us pay for it."
Anaheim finally broke through when Getzlaf brought the puck down the wing and fed it in front to Ryan, who banged it through Kyle Palmieri's screen for his ninth goal. Moments later, Selanne scored on a slick shot in close.
NOTES: Anaheim's Andrew Cogliano skated off with a bloody mouth after the faceoff following Selanne's goal when Bollig clipped him with a high stick. Bollig wasn't called for a penalty on the play. Cogliano sustained significant damage to his teeth — but didn't miss a shift. ... The goal was Leddy's fourth of the season after getting just three in 82 games last year. ... Longtime Blackhawks fan Vince Vaughn and Orange County native Matt Barkley attended the game, both wearing jerseys.