ANAHEIM, Calif. – This game is all about the bounces. It’s all about the work ethic. And it’s about taking advantage of the opportunities.
On Sunday, the Anaheim Ducks made the most of the latter. The Blackhawks did not.
Kyle Palmieri scored the game-winning goal off a Blackhawks miscue in the second period and the Ducks would score two more in the third as they beat the Blackhawks 4-1 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. Game 2 is Tuesday night at the Honda Center.
It’s the first time the Blackhawks have trailed in a series this postseason.
Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen stopped 32 of 33 shots for the victory. Corey Crawford stopped 23 of 26 in the loss.
As far as skating, hitting and shooting, neither team looked very rusty after their lengthy layoffs. But both the Blackhawks and Ducks made their share of errors. The Ducks struggled with passes and turnovers in the first period, when the Blackhawks outshot them 16-7. Andersen stopped all 16, including a stunning stick save on Patrick Kane.
“I thought I did everything right on the play. He just had his stick there,” Kane said. “If I would have put it along the ice I would have had a better chance of scoring there. It would have been nice to get that chance and bury it to give us the lead.”
The Ducks did just that. After a failed David Rundblad clear near the blue line, Hampus Lindholm scored to give the Ducks a 1-0 edge. Rundblad had another turnover early in the second. The Ducks turned that into a goal, too, with Palmieri scoring his first of the postseason for a 2-0 lead.
It was a tough start for Rundblad, who was playing in his first NHL postseason game.
“You don’t want to be on the ice when they score. Defensively, you look at the plays, we want to make sure we’re making safe plays and good pays and easy exits,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “A couple of those we could do differently.”
Still, there was plenty of time for the Blackhawks to recover. Brad Richards, off a Francois Beauchemin turnover, scored with 39.6 seconds remaining in the second period to cut Anaheim’s lead to 2-1.
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Richards’ goal gave the Blackhawks momentum going into the third – or at least it seemed it should have. But between the missed power-play opportunities, Andersen’s great game and another error leading to another Anaheim goal – Duncan Keith’s overaggressive play on which Jakob Silfverberg eventually scored – the Blackhawks couldn’t come up with anything.
“Yeah, there are always going to be giveaways, always going to be chances both ways. They seemed to bury them. They didn’t make mistakes burying them,” Richards said. “It happens sometimes. But take away the score, we have to play more of a 60-minute effort, and play a lot more like we did in the first, throughout the game.”
The Blackhawks had their chances on Sunday. They’re usually a team that capitalizes when given those – just look at the Blackhawks’ series against the Minnesota Wild. But the Ducks are here for a reason: they’re pretty good in their own right. And on Sunday, they were best in the finishing department.
“We expected them to be a good team. I don’t think by any means did we come in and expect to steal and take wins from them,” Kane said. “It’s going to be a fight for us. We have to realize that and realize this is the best team we’ve faced yet.”