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.”
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.”