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.
"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.