Black­hawks into Cup Fi­nals, beat Ducks 5-3

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Jonathan Toews scored two goals in the open­ing min­utes, Corey Craw­ford made 35 saves and the Chicago Black­hawks roared into the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nals with a 5-3 victory over the Ana­heim Ducks in Game 7 of the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals Satur­day night.

Bran­don Saad, Mar­ian Hossa and Brent Seabrook also scored for the Black­hawks, who will play for their third NHL cham­pi­onship in six sea­sons when they face the Tampa Bay Light­ning be­gin­ning Wed­nes­day night in Florida.

Af­ter six games of tense hockey in an ex­tra­or­di­nary se­ries, Game 7 was an in­con­gru­ous rout. Toews was re­spon­si­ble for it, bur­nish­ing his rep­u­ta­tion for big-game bril­liance with a re­bound goal just 2:23 in and an­other power-play score be­fore 12 min­utes elapsed.

Ana­heim lost a Game 7 at home for the third straight sea­son.

The Ducks blew a 3-2 se­ries lead each time, com­pound­ing the heart­break for a tal­ented team that hasn’t de­vel­oped the post­sea­son poise pos­sessed by Chicago and other cham­pi­ons.

The Black­hawks led 4-0 be­fore Ryan Kesler scored late in the sec­ond pe­riod for the Ducks. Corey Perry scored for Ana­heim with 8:24 to play, but Seabrook scored on a power play shortly af­ter­ward.

Pa­trick Kane had three as­sists for Chicago, which won three of the se­ries’ fi­nal four games to seize an­other West­ern Con­fer­ence ti­tle.

The Black­hawks have de­fied con­ven­tional NHL par­ity to reach three Stan­ley Cup Fi­nals and five con­fer­ence fi­nals in a seven-year stretch un­der coach Joel Quen­neville. That’s be­cause their stars are un­matched: From Toews and Kane to Seabrook and Dun­can Keith, no­body knows how to win like Chicago.

The Black­hawks bounced back this sea­son af­ter their Game 7 loss to the Kings in last spring’s con­fer­ence fi­nals. Chicago out­lasted Nashville and swept Min­nesota this spring be­fore out­last­ing Ana­heim in the fran­chises’ first play­off meet­ing.

Keith had two as­sists while com­plet­ing the se­ries with a jaw­drop­ping 230 min­utes, 48 sec­onds of ice time for a team largely re­ly­ing on four de­fense­men.

Brad Richards, who won the Conn Smythe Tro­phy in 2004 with Tampa Bay, had two as­sists for Chicago while im­prov­ing to 8-0 in Game 7 in his NHL ca­reer.

Fred­erik An­der­sen made 21 saves for the Ducks, giv­ing up three goals on Chicago’s first seven shots.

The col­lapse came abruptly for Ana­heim, which went a record­ty­ing 14 games into the post­sea­son with­out a reg­u­la­tion de­feat un­til los­ing the last two games by a com­bined 10-5. Matt Be­leskey scored a power-play goal in the fi­nal minute for the Ducks, who fin­ished one game shy of their first Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal since 2007.

Three days af­ter Chicago staved off elim­i­na­tion with a 5-2 win at home, Toews some­how man­aged to top his last ap­pear­ance at Honda Cen­ter. He tied Game 5 on Mon­day with two elec­tri­fy­ing goals in the fi­nal min­utes be­fore Ana­heim won in over­time.

He’s an amaz­ing hockey player,” Quen­neville said of Toews. “He just seems to excel in big mo­ments, big stages, and shows he’s as good a leader as in any sport.”

Cap­tain Se­ri­ous showed how much he thought of Game 7 pres­sure when he scored just 2:23 in. Nik­las Hjal­mars­son’s long shot re­bounded straight to Toews, who scored his fourth goal of the se­ries when the Ducks in­ex­pli­ca­bly failed to de­fend him.

Ana­heim im­me­di­ately showed ten­sion in its game, per­haps re­mem­ber­ing their three-goal first pe­riod deficit in their Game 7 loss to the Los An­ge­les Kings last spring. Af­ter Jakob Sil­fver­berg took a hook­ing penalty mid­way through the pe­riod, Toews cap­i­tal­ized with a high shot through traf­fic, get­ting it through Saad’s screen in front.

Chicago needed just 78 sec­onds in the sec­ond pe­riod to take a three-goal lead, with Kane find­ing Saad wide open at the net af­ter a funny bounce off the boards.

Ana­heim fi­nally made an of­fen­sive push, but Craw­ford han­dled it eas­ily be­fore Hossa es­sen­tially put the game out of reach when a re­bound hit his skate and went past An­der­sen. Video re­view found no dis­tinct kick­ing mo­tion on Hossa’s third goal of the se­ries.

AP

Chicago Black­hawks right wing Mar­ian Hossa, front, scores past Ana­heim Ducks goalie Fred­erik An­der­sen dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod in Game 7 of the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal of the NHL Stan­ley Cup play­offs in Ana­heim, Cal­i­for­nia, Satur­day, May 30.

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