Seconds ticked by in torturous fashion for Mighty Duck goaltender Guy Hebert Wednesday at The Pond. He kept sneaking peeks at the overhead scoreboard, kept staring at Ducks 3, Hawks 0. The numbers seemed to be taking forever to click off the clock, though.
A shutout against the Chicago Blackhawks was close enough to touch. In the end, Hebert had to settle for a 3-1 victory.
Settle? Yeah right. Going against the Blackhawks, who had scored eight goals against the Kings Tuesday night, Hebert wondered aloud whether the Mighty Ducks belonged on the same ice.
He had watched the first period of Chicago's 8-4 victory on TV and cringed. He turned it off with the Blackhawks ahead, 4-2. He figured he'd seen plenty of Bernie Nicholls, Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, Patrick Poulin and Joe Murphy.
Turned out they did no damage Wednesday, and Hebert kept Chicago scoreless until Gary Suter fired a shot into the net at the 16:36 mark of the third period.
"The win is the most important part," Hebert said after snapping the Ducks' three-game losing streak and improving his record to 4-7-1. "You know about the (possible) shutout. You can't help but know. I have to admit I was looking for it. I kept looking at the clock."
By game's end, it mattered very little to Hebert that he couldn't pull off the shutout or that the Blackhawks were playing for the second straight night and appeared dead on their feet. What counted was the victory.
Although Hebert has apparently achieved No. 1 goaltender status, he has had to settle for small victories that don't show up in the standings. He faces a barrage of shots on a nightly basis, but has fared better than Mikhail Shtalenkov. Duck Coach Ron Wilson won't come and say who's No. 1, but by starting Hebert on a more consistent basis he leaves little doubt as to the top goalie.
"I'm trying to keep it tough on him to take me out," Hebert said.
Wednesday, he stopped 32 of 33 shots, marking the sixth time he's made 30 saves or more. Over his past six games, Hebert has stoped 173 of 184 shots for a .940 save percentage.
But until defeating the Blackhawks there had been a hollow feeling in the pit of Hebert's stomach.
"For the most part, I've been pleased with my play so far," he said. "But in the end result, you can't be too happy because there's a lot of losses."
The Ducks almost got it right Sunday against Calgary, but blew a two-goal lead and lost, 5-3.
"Against Calgary, the whole team felt we were getting back to the style we played last year," Hebert said. "But we let it slip away. We had a good feeling against Calgary, then it went sour. We were fortunate to be playing a tired hockey team tonight, but that's our best effort this year."