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. 

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.