Ducks grind out Game 3 victory over Blackhawks
Until the Anaheim Ducks finish off the Chicago Blackhawks and make it back to the Stanley Cup Final, they will endure comparisons to past franchise failures. Anaheim has been up on powerhouse teams in the postseason before, only to crumble when it was do-or-die time.
It's too early to say whether this edition is different, but the Ducks are showing character and an ability to win in any style.
Two days after losing late in the third overtime of Game 2 — their first loss on home ice in the playoffs — the Ducks ground out a 2-1 victory against the Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals at United Center.
It wasn't the sharpest of games for either club, both of which were probably still feeling the effects of that lengthy Game 2 and the ensuing cross-country flight. But the Ducks received another superb effort from goalie Frederik Andersen, a pair of helpers from captain Ryan Getzlaf and a 2-1 lead in the series with Game 4 on Saturday in Chicago.
"It's great to see how we responded as a group in that way, which is the best way to do it in the playoffs," Andersen said. "We weren't satisfied with what we did the last game. That was huge for this group coming off a tough loss."
Play of the day: Chicago's Patrick Kane only has one point in this series, but it came on a beautiful goal Thursday. Center Brad Richards sent a pass across the high slot that was intended for Kane. Three Ducks tried to intercept the pass but kept each other from accomplishing the task. Kane gathered the puck on his backhand and, without looking, whipped a shot underneath Andersen's arm to draw Chicago even at 1-1 with 57 seconds left in the first period.
Turning point: Chicago had five power-play opportunities in the game and failed to cash in on any of them, while Anaheim scored on its only power play of the game.
1. Frederik Andersen, G, Anaheim. Andersen made 28 saves and now boasts the top save percentage of the four goaltenders still playing in the playoffs at .935.
2. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim. Getzlaf had a pair of assists and played his usual brand of solid defense.
3. Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago. Kane netted his eighth goal of the playoffs and nearly had the game-tying goal in the waning seconds when he missed just wide of the far post.
Anaheim 2, Chicago 1
Series: Ducks lead series 2-1.
Key stat: Per ESPN, Chicago goalie Corey Crawford has been screened on four of the seven goals he's allowed in the series and the Ducks lead the playoffs with 11 goals off screens.
Best visual: Anaheim's Simon Despres is turning into one of the better trade-deadline acquisitions of the postseason. He scored the game-winning goal from the right boards on a one-timer, but the replay shows it was actually a bad goal. Crawford did a poor job tracking the puck and was already down in his butterfly when Getzlaf whipped the puck over to Despres, whose shot stayed on the ice and should have been an easy save if only Crawford had been in position.
Unexpected distraction: NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury caused a stir when asked how he would play against Ducks pest Corey Perry, who has a reputation around the league as a dirty player. Although Milbury was partly joking in a comment that eventually turned into a compliment, he said: "If I were playing against Corey Perry, I'd probably want to hurt him in some painful and permanent way, and I think most of the rest of the league feels the same way."
Asked if Milbury should apologize, Ducks captain Getzlaf said: "Hundred percent. I'm sure he will. I'd expect nothing else. You go out and make mistakes on national TV, I'd expect you to make an apology for it. Life goes on."
Best quote: "He does put a calmness about the group when we're not playing well or we're having a rough shift. He seems to know when to hold the puck, when we need a faceoff, when to keep it going. That's the sign of a guy that's young but has experience underneath him. Like I said, I think last year's playoffs helped him immensely." — Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on Andersen.
What we learned: This is going to be a long series. Both teams had their chances on Thursday, both teams seem capable of generating many more and both teams have demonstrated an ability to win on each other's home ice — something none of the clubs' four opponents had done in the postseason before this series. The guess here is Chicago gets Game 4 and we're in for an epic finish.
Next game: Game 4, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET at United Center in Chicago.
Final thought: It would probably be overstating the situation to say that the Tampa Bay Lightning are in Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist's head. Lundqvist is too experienced to expect him to crumble, but after scoring 12 goals against him in the past two games, Tampa sure has Lundqvist questioning himself. Check out his comments and analysis of the situation in this video. They are not those of a confident goalie as New York prepares for a critical Game 4 in Florida.