Huge second period from Blackhawks forces Game 7 vs. Ducks


Huge second period from Blackhawks forces Game 7 vs. Ducks

Finding ways to win, finding ways to finish off series or finding ways to extend series: the Blackhawks have experience in all of those facets. And on Wednesday night, facing elimination, they executed that third one pretty darn well.

Duncan Keith had three assists during the Blackhawks three-goal second period as they went on to beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. The Blackhawks force a Game 7, which will be on Saturday night in Anaheim.

The Blackhawks are now 31-0 when leading after two periods and they handed the Ducks their first regulation loss of this postseason. From their flurry of second-period goals – three in three minutes, 45 seconds – to Andrew Shaw’s first of two goals stymieing the Ducks’ growing pressure in the third, the Blackhawks got exactly what they needed to send this series to the limit.

“It’s huge,” said Shaw, who also added an empty-net goal with 49 seconds remaining in regulation. “We stuck to our game. They played great hockey, and we knew it. We expected it. It’s just weathering that storm. Once they got that one, their team is going to keep going and going. We just fought through it, stuck to our guns.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The first period wasn’t nearly as full of fireworks as Game 5’s. For the Blackhawks, that was a good thing. And in the second, they exploded for their three goals. Brandon Saad started it, taking Patrick Kane’s pass, beating Hampus Lindholm with his speed and Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen with his shot for a 1-0 lead. Marian Hossa was next to score, taking a feed from Duncan Keith after he waited just long enough, for a 2-0 lead. About 90 seconds after that goal it was Kane from the slot, his goal just trickling past Andersen for a 3-0 edge.

Not surprisingly, the Ducks weren’t finished. Patrick Maroon’s power-play goal got the Ducks within two, 3-1, late in the second and Clayton Stoner scored early in a third period the Ducks looked to dominate. The Ducks had the possession time and the majority of shots – the Blackhawks had just four the entire period. But before the Ducks scored again, Andrew Shaw muscled his way to a backhand goal and a 4-2 Blackhawks lead.

“Yeah, it was a huge play,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Give [primary assister Andrew Desjardins] credit and Shawzy a boost as well, because he made a great shot in a hard area. That slowed the push coming our way against a team that feels so good about [itself] in the third period and has so many weapons. They can force and pressure and they’re good at it. That definitely relieved some of the pressure we were getting.”

[WATCH: Blackhawks explode for three goals in second period]

The pressure is still there, but now it’s on both teams heading in to Game 7. The Blackhawks have been here, done this plenty in the past few seasons. The Ducks will try not to blow another 3-2 postseason lead.

Neither team has won two games in a row in this series, just in case you needed another example of how close this matchup has been. The Blackhawks have found a way to get to another Game 7 after being down in a series. They toppled Detroit two years ago. They came close to doing the same to the Kings last year. Now they’ll try, once again, to find a way to advance.

“Both teams have found it tough, obviously putting two wins back to back. We’ve done a good job of coming back hard after a loss, evening up the series and giving ourselves a chance to stay alive. And they’ve done a good job of going back, stealing the momentum when we haven’t,” Jonathan Toews said. “When you get to this point, everyone says Game 7, anything can happen. That’s what we truly believe. We have to try to change that [no-consecutive-victories) trend on the next one.”

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?