Ducks 'outstanding' PK proves to be X-Factor in Game 3 win


Ducks 'outstanding' PK proves to be X-Factor in Game 3 win

Any momentum the Blackhawks had from their dramatic Game 2 triple-overtime victory was killed early. 

In front of a raucous United Center crowd that had been waiting for the Blackhawks to play on home ice since May 3, the Hawks weren't able to give their fanbase much to cheer about in a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final thanks in large part to coming up empty on the power play. 

And the chances were there for the taking for Chicago. 

The Ducks, who have killed off eight consecutive power play attempts by the Blackhawks dating back to Game 2, were up to the task once again on Thursday evening. Anaheim was whistled for two penalties within the first 11 minutes of Game 3. After killing off both Chicago attempts, Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg was given a double minor for a high stick on Andrew Shaw late in the first period. The Blackhawks couldn't cash in on a generous four minute power play, failing to generate many prime scoring chances on a stingy Ducks penalty kill unit.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

After allowing Shaw and Marian Hossa to notch power play goals for the Blackhawks in the first seven minutes of Game 2, the Ducks made sure they weren't going to put themselves in an early hole. 

"It's not easy to do for anybody," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "But we killed a lot in the first period which is not the way you want to start a hockey game. Last game it ended up biting us and tonight we are able to persevere and play the way we wanted to on the kill."

For a team as talented as the Blackhawks, generating just one shot on five chances is completely mind blowing with players such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Hossa on the power play unit. But most of the credit has to go to the Ducks for swallowing up every chance the Hawks had.

The Ducks applied pressure, blocking each and every shot attempt the Blackhawks tried to send through on goaltender Frederik Andersen. They were faster to the puck, winning every puck battle along the boards. 

"We made some great reads, especially when pucks were up for grabs and on 50/50 pucks," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "I thought all four of our guys were on the same page with the pressure, and then when it was time to make sure we were in shooting lanes and they have full control I thought we did a great job of that and blocking shots.

[MORE: Ducks regroup to regain home ice advantage]

"You also need your goaltender to be a great penalty killer for you and he made some great saves for us. When our penalty kill is going I think it's really good, and the main thing is you just have to have confidence in that and tonight we started building on that."

In a low scoring game, a big power play goal or a timely penalty kill is usually the difference on the scoresheet. 

And although the Ducks know they have to stay out of the penalty box, especially against a dangerous Blackhawks team that can strike at any time, they're confident in the special teams group they have. 

"You got to take our hats off to the PK tonight," Ducks forward Patrick Maroon said. "The PK was outstanding. I think it was one of those games where it was going to be the PP or PK that was going to win us a hockey game and our PK won us the hockey game tonight."

With two teams that are so evenly matched in every sense of the way, all it takes is one X-Factor to steal a win.

Thursday's Game 3 X-Factor put the Ducks two victories away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance. 

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?