Toews, Blackhawks, 2015 Western Conference Champion

2015 Western Conference Finals Game 7 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Getty Images
Getty Images

Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks proved once again, exactly why they are Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks, defeating the Anaheim Ducks, 5-3, on Saturday night in Game 7 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals. The Blackhawks are the 2015 Western Conference Champions and will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals.

Toews had a two-goal night and became the first player in NHL history to score two goals in a Game 5 and Game 7 on the road in one series. Corey Crawford made 35 saves on 38 shots against en route to securing the win, while Frederik Andersen made 21 saves on 26 shots on goal in the Ducks loss.

The Chicago Blackhawks got off to a quick start in Game 7 with Toews scoring his first goal of the game at 2:23 of the period. Patrick Kane made a quick pass to Niklas Hjalmarsson, who shot it from the point, generating a rebound opportunity that Toews cashed in on for the 1-0 lead. The team that scored first in each game won every game of this series.

Unknown-2About halfway into the 1st period, things were still looking pretty good for Anaheim, despite trailing 1-0. Shots on goal were tied 4-4 and both teams had plenty of chances at each end. At 11:08, Jakob Silfverberg was penalized for hooking Brandon Saad- negating an excellent scoring opportunity for Saad, something that would become a theme throughout the night.

Nearly 50 seconds into the power play, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, was at it again, this time on a great shot from the slot with help from Brad Richards and Duncan Keith. The goal was Toews’s second of the night and 9th of the playoffs. The Blackhawks suddenly had a staggering 2-0 lead a little over halfway into the 1st period.

Heading into the 2nd period, the Ducks knew they had to do better if they wanted to remain relevant in the game. Yet 1:18 into the period, Brandon Saad found a rebound and sent it straight to the twine for a 3-0 Blackhawks lead. Saad’s 6th of the playoffs was assisted by Patrick Kane and Johnny Oduya.

Kane shortly had a breakaway soon after Saad’s goal, but was denied by Andersen. It was Frederik Andersen’s 7th save on 10 shots on goal with about 14 minutes remaining in the 2nd period and was a boost of confidence for the otherwise struggling Anaheim goaltender and his teammates.

But then Marian Hossa deflected the puck with his skate in what appeared to be a kicking motion, but was called a goal on the ice and confirmed by video review, for a 4-0 lead for Chicago. This year’s new interpretation of a “distinct kicking motion” favored Hossa’s redirection as an apparent intentional positioning of his leg, but not a full fledging- follow through inclusive- kick.

At 17:55 of the 2nd period, Marcus Kruger tripped Tomas Fleischmann (in for the scratched Emerson Etem) and gave Anaheim a short lived power play. Almost a minute later, Sami Vatanen denied Brandon Saad proper entry on a breakaway by tying him up with a hook, resulting in a penalty, and 4 on 4 hockey. Anaheim was outshooting Chicago 26-15 when the call was made, despite still trailing 4-0 on the scoreboard.

UnknownOn the ensuing 4 on 4 play, Ryan Kesler got the Ducks on the scoreboard with his 7th of the playoffs, assisted by Jakob Silfverberg and Francois Beauchemin. Duncan Keith was subsequently stoned cold by Andersen on a breakaway for the Blackhawks with 35 seconds left in the period. Kesler would hear his name come up again, before the period ended, when he was called for slashing Saad.

The Ducks killed off a 5 on 3 power play for the Blackhawks early in the 3rd period. With 9:28 to go in the game, Anaheim was outshooting Chicago 31-22 and desperately trying to get anything and everything on goal. Corey Perry notched his 10th of the playoffs at 11:36 of the 3rd period with help from Patrick Maroon and Ryan Getzlaf. Perry’s goal brought the Ducks to within two, but it wasn’t a 4-2 game for long.

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Cam Fowler was called for hooking at 12:49 of the period, giving the Blackhawks their fourth power play of the night. Brent Seabrook capitalized on the man advantage with a rocket from the point and made it a 5-2 hockey game at 13:23 of the 3rd period.

Seabrook’s 6th of the playoffs was assisted by Kane and Keith and all but put the game officially out of reach for an Anaheim comeback. In fact, for nearly four minutes after Seabrook’s goal, the Ducks couldn’t record a shot on goal.

With 3:15 left in the game, the Chicago Blackhawks called a timeout while the Anaheim Ducks pulled their goalie. The resulting 6 on 5 play quickly became a 6 on 4 advantage for Anaheim, as Oduya was sent to the box for sending the puck out of play, resulting in a delay of game penalty at 18:58 of the 3rd.

On just their 2nd power play opportunity of the night, Matt Beleskey cashed in for the Ducks. The pending free agent scored his 8th of the playoffs with help from Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, making it a 5-3 game.

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

But it was too little too late. Despite a late rally and 38 shots on goal in the game, the Anaheim Ducks couldn’t come up with the Game 7 win at home. Just as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New York Rangers on road ice to advance to this year’s Stanley Cup Finals, the Chicago Blackhawks advanced in enemy territory.

Whereas Anaheim outshot Chicago 38-26 and outhit the Blackhawks 37-15, the Ducks were no match in other aspects of the game. A stronger faceoff presence by Anaheim than in Game 6 kept faceoff wins at 32-32 for both teams, but the Blackhawks led blocked shots for once, 15-14, and took advantage of 2 of their 4 power play’s on the night.

The brash Ducks couldn’t stand against the well versed and experienced Blackhawks. Chicago made the Honda Center their own, as if that wasn’t already apparent enough in the fact that many Blackhawks fans were in attendance and cheering loudly as their team won 5-3 on Saturday night.

Chicago is making their 3rd Stanley Cup Finals appearance in six years. They won the Cup back in 2010 and in 2013 and are set to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning and their league leading offense. Tampa is making just their 2nd Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history, having won the Cup back in 2004.

Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals will be Wednesday, June 3rd, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 PM EST and coverage in the United States will be on NBC for games 1 and 2. Games 3 and 4 will air on NBCSN. If necessary, Game 5, 6, and/or 7 will be announced at a later time.

Bishop, Lightning, 2015 Eastern Conference Champions

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 7 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A Game 7 with emotions running high resulted with the Tampa Bay Lightning beating the New York Rangers 2-0. Alex Killorn scored the first of Tampa’s two 3rd period goals (his 7th of the playoffs), while the second came late in the period from Ondrej Palat.

Ben Bishop recorded his second shutout at Madison Square Garden in this series, stopping all 22 shots faced on Friday night. He also became the third goalie in NHL history to post two Game 7 shutouts in the same postseason, joining Patrick Roy (2002) and Tim Thomas (2011).

A high tempo, high energy, first period saw end-to-end action that ended scoreless. Both teams had their adrenaline pumping as the game experienced craziness with the fans screaming their heads off- right in tune with the game. The New York Rangers took a page out of Tampa’s book as they dressed 11 forwards and 7 defenseman (or so everyone thought).

Rangers captain, Ryan McDonagh, was experiencing some issues and had actually gone back to the locker room before the game began. McDonagh returned shortly into the 1st period. It was later revealed that he was playing with a broken foot for the last few games. The captain was usually carrying a heavy load on the blueline for the Rangers, but finished with a measly 3 shifts and 1:47 of ice time in Game 7.

Unknown-1Bishop and Henrik Lundqvist looked prepared for this big game, as they kept shot after shot out of their net. New York had a few quality scoring chances, despite having 5 shots on goal. The Lightning had more chances with 9 shots on goal. One opportunity forced a big save by Lundqvist as the shot deflected off of a New York stick, off Lundqvist’s glove, and over the net.

The goaltender battle continued during the second period as Tampa started with quick chances. Ryan Callahan gathered the puck on a rebound and threw it towards the net, but Lundqvist got his pad on it. The Lightning became undisciplined and unwound for a short period of time when Brenden Morrow took a questionable call for hooking at 3:41 of the 2nd period.

Ryan McDonagh got some time on the power play and generated a chance for his team off his hard shot, but Bishop was there to make the save and Tampa quickly cleared it towards the corner.

Tampa found themselves shorthanded again about four minutes later with a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 7:46 of the 2nd period. The Lightning’s penalty kill unit proved their worth and only allowed a few chances, including one from Keith Yandle as he skated down from the point and received a backdoor pass, but shot the puck wide of the net.

New York Rangers LogoThe last 5 minutes of the period saw both teams generating multiple chances as the action went all over the rink. The Lightning established the zone, giving Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov chances that Lundqvist could only shoulder away. Jason Garrison also had a great chance at 16:04, when he received a backdoor pass, only to be denied, once more, by Lundqvist.

McDonagh continued to get more minutes as he battled through playing with a broken foot. He had a little over ten minutes of ice time by the end of forty minutes of play, adding almost 9 full minutes in the period. At the end of two, the Lightning outshot the Rangers 19-11. Both teams were throwing their weight around pretty equally with New York slightly outhitting Tampa 22-21. Faceoff wins were one sided in favor of the Rangers 26-14.

The third period saw a fast start for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who scored 1:54 into the 3rd period. Alex Killorn snuck his backhand, five hole, between the pads of Lundqvist as the puck trickled across the line. The Rangers tried to answer by throwing pucks towards the net and hoping for rebounds, yet Ben Bishop remained strong with great rebound control and denied second and third chances. He finally gave up a few chances at the halfway point when a mad scramble ensued, but managed to freeze the puck.

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Tampa managed to double their lead at 11:17 of the period when a wrist shot from Ondrej Palat beat Lundqvist top shelf. Palat’s goal was assisted by Tyler Johnson and Ben Bishop. Momentum began swinging out of New York’s favor as the reality of being down 2-0 in Game 7 with not much time remaining- potentially in their season- set in.

Ben Bishop made numerous saves, stopping everything thrown at him. New York was forced to pull Lundqvist with 3:44 remaining in the game for an extra attacker. Bishop, once again, remained strong and withheld the Rangers from a goal on the scoreboard.

Henrik Lundqvist in what became his final game of the season, brushed aside 23 of the 25 total shots on goal by the Lightning. Both teams shook hands with ease and tradition, as is long established in sportsmanship, after the long seven game battle for the Eastern Conference championship. Former Rangers captain, Ryan Callahan, shook hands with the man who he was traded for, Martin St. Louis, with Callahan moving on and St. Louis, for the second year in a row with the Rangers, failing to capture one more Cup.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are moving on to the Stanley Cup Finals for their second time in franchise history. The last time Tampa made the Stanley Cup Finals, in 2004, they won the Cup. The Stanley Cup Finals start June 3rd at 8 PM with national broadcast information to be released soon. The Lightning will face the winner of Saturday night’s Western Conference Finals Game 7 between the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Colby’s Corner- Bylsma’s Here, Now What?

Colby Kephart is pleased with the hiring of Dan Bylsma as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, but he wants to know what’s next for the Sabres (and tries to answer that question) in this edition of…

Colby’s Corner

By: Colby Kephart

Well it’s official, on Thursday May 28th, The Buffalo Sabres announced Dan Bylsma as their 17th head coach in franchise history. Bylsma had a Stanley Cup, in 2009, under his belt and won the Jack Adams Award in 2011, during his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was fired from the Penguins after 2013-2014 season after they lost in the playoffs to the New York Rangers in the 2nd Round.

Photo Credit: Bill Wippert
Photo Credit: Bill Wippert

However, despite being fired from his last head coaching position, Bylsma brings an impressive coaching record to Buffalo.

In 401 regular season games in Pittsburgh, he had a 252-117-32 record. Bylsma recently served as an assistant coach to the US 2015 IIHF team.

He worked with this year’s expected 2nd overall pick, and soon to be prospect of the Sabres, Jack Eichel, who had a terrific tournament. Bylsma signed a long term five-year deal, as Tim Murray continues to add the pieces to get Buffalo on the right track.

Why is this good for the Sabres?

This is great for the Sabres because this gives them a coach who has dealt with franchise centers, like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Bylsma has worked with Jack Eichel and he will be able to make Eichel a franchise center, a position Buffalo has lacked for years. Bylsma doesn’t just improve the players the Sabres already have, but also attracts the attention of bigger name free agents to strengthen the team.

It’s no secret that the Sabres do not have a Stanley Cup in their history, but they now have a coach who does. Bylsma brings experience to the table that words can’t describe, he knows what it will take to make the Sabres a top level team in the league.

Bylsma coached the Penguins to four 100-point+ seasons and finished no worse than second in their division during that span. After watching the press conference, it looks like Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma will have a good relationship and should agree on moves that the team will make down the road.

So what’s next for the Sabres?

Antti Niemi could be on his way out of San Jose, but would Dan Bylsma be enough to attract him to Buffalo? (Getty Images)
Antti Niemi could be on his way out of San Jose, but would Dan Bylsma be enough to attract him to Buffalo? (Getty Images)

The Sabres need a goalie- a true number one goalie that can handle the playing time and get the team the wins to make the playoffs. There were a few reports of the team trading with Ottawa for Robin Lehner or Craig Anderson that have since quieted down.

If Tim Murray decides to rebuild through free agency, he has to look at goalies like San Jose’s pending UFA, Antti Niemi (who has a Stanley Cup too). There are other big names out there, however, none of them have a ring on their finger.

Buffalo also needs help defensively. They will have a solid top 2 pair in Josh Gorges and Zach Bogosian next season and they also have young prospects, Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen, who both played this season.

The team could have a lot of defensemen leaving with Andre Benoit, Tyson Strachan, and Andrej Meszaros’s contracts ending on July 1st. The Sabres have two top prospects (Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe) who could possibly be called up and play next season; otherwise they need to sign a top 4 player who can be a shutdown defender.

Offensively, the addition of Evander Kane and Jack Eichel (assuming all goes as planned) the Sabres would be one or two top wingers from having a complete offensive presence. Tyler Ennis played for Team Canada in the IIHF 2015 World Hockey Championship and shined like the star he was this past season. Ennis will likely be one of the wings of the 1st line with Evander Kane on the opposite side- with either Eichel or Zegmus Girgensons as the center.

What will the future bring for Justin Williams this offseason? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
What will the future bring for Justin Williams this offseason? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Sabres need a second line right-winger that can go out and score 10-15 goals and get 15-20 assists. Some potential free agents who could fit this role would be UFA Justin Williams or RFA Tyler Toffoli of the LA Kings.

Another leading candidate would be pending RFA Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sabres have plenty of salary cap space to land these big targets.

I’m not saying the Sabres will be competing for the Stanley Cup next season, yet I feel like if you give Eichel and even Sam Reinhart 2-3 years of experience in the NHL, they will become good playmakers and could make a deep playoff run.

If Buffalo can add a few more pivotal pieces to the team the Sabres could be looking good for the future. They could even be looking at an Atlantic Division or Eastern Conference title within the next 3-4 seasons under Dan Bylsma’s leadership.

Blackhawks Win 5-2, Force Game 7 in Anaheim

2015 Western Conference Finals Game 6 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-2In front of 22,089 fans at the United Center on Wednesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks were able to stave off elimination and force a Game 7 on Saturday night in Anaheim with a 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Patrick Kane’s 10th goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the game winning goal in the Blackhawks winning effort as Corey Crawford made 30 saves on 32 shots against to pick up the win.

Anaheim’s, Frederik Andersen, made 18 saves on 22 shots faced in the loss. Chicago’s Andrew Shaw and Duncan Keith had impressive efforts as well, with Shaw scoring two goals and Keith earning three assists on the night.

A scoreless first period ended with 10 shots on goal for Anaheim and 6 shots on goal for Chicago. The Blackhawks also dominated faceoff wins 15-4, while the Ducks led hits 18-15 and blocked shots 13-5. Both teams went 0/1 on the power play as Anaheim couldn’t capitalize on a too many men bench minor against the Blackhawks, 1:59 into the period, and Chicago couldn’t score on their power play opportunity as a result of Corey Perry’s hooking penalty at 7:06 of the 1st period.

At 8:23 of the 2nd period Brandon Saad raced down the ice on a breakaway and landed a shot past Andersen and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Blackhawks lead. The goal was Saad’s 5th of the playoffs and was assisted by Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith. A little over two minutes later, Chicago went ahead 2-0 on a goal from Marian Hossa with help from Keith and Brad Richards. Finally, at 12:08 of the 2nd period, Kane picked up his 10th goal of the postseason with Keith earning his 3rd assist of the night, cementing a 3-0 Blackhawks lead a little past halfway into the period.

UnknownBrad Richards took a hooking penalty at 14:08 of the 2nd period, resulting in a Ducks power play. Anaheim stopped some of the bleeding with a power play goal from Patrick Maroon via crafty work by Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen. For now, at least, the score was 3-1 and the Ducks successfully displayed a sign of life. Ryan Kesler gave Chicago their third and final power play opportunity of the night after tripping goaltender, Corey Crawford, setting the standard for a little more contact with both goalies in the 3rd period.

Shots on goal were deadlocked at 19-19 and hits were tied, 30-30, by the second intermission. Anaheim led blocked shots 18-8 and were 1 for 2 on the power play, while Chicago continued to dominate faceoff wins, 29-11, and were 0 for 3 on the man advantage.

Andrew Shaw celebrates one of his third period goals in Game 6 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals in Chicago. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Andrew Shaw celebrates one of his third period goals in Game 6 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals in Chicago. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The 3rd period got off to a quick start for the Ducks, showing signs of a potentially thrilling comeback, as Clayton Stoner notched his 1st goal of the playoffs at 1:57 of the period. Nate Thompson and Jakob Silfverberg were credited assists on Stoner’s goal. Silfverberg, in fact, clipped Crawford’s glove as he was skating in front of the net, causing some to argue for goaltender interference, but the fact of the matter was that 1) Silfverberg was well out of the crease 2) knew where Crawford was in relation to where he was heading and 3) Crawford might have stuck his glove hand out to bat Silfverberg away, thus hampering his own chances at being fully able to make a save.

At least, those might have been a few things that crossed the referee’s mind in not making a call and reversing the goal on the ice.

Kesler and Silfverberg’s bumps into the goalie weren’t the only ones in the game. Nearly a minute and a half after Stoner’s goal, Chicago’s Andrew Desjardins was sent to the box for goaltender interference in a clear disregard for the established “don’t touch the goalie” rule after knocking down Frederik Andersen in the crease, perhaps in retaliation for the Ducks called and uncalled run ins with Crawford.

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The pace of the game settled in until there was about three and a half minutes to go, when the intensity really picked up as Anaheim desperately tried for a tying goal. Instead, Desjardins had a quick breakout with Andrew Shaw, who began to put away the hopes of a Ducks comeback in Game 6 with his 3rd goal of the playoffs at 16:28 of the period.

The Blackhawks had amassed 22 shots on goal, seven fewer than the Ducks, and yet had a 4-2 lead and were closer to a Game 7 than the Ducks were to a comeback. It wasn’t long before Anaheim was outshooting Chicago 31-22 and had an offensive zone faceoff with Andersen already pulled and 1:05 remaining in the game.

At 19:11, Shaw put away an empty netter for his 2nd goal of the night, assisted by Desjardins, and gave the Blackhawks a 5-2 lead. The Ducks ended the night with 32 shots on goal and Chicago wrapped up the game with 23 shots on net. Anaheim continued to display a much more physical game, leading in hits, 43-38- although that usually means that the more physical team spent less time with the puck.

Chicago amassed 33 faceoff wins in the game, compared to Anaheim’s 17 faceoff wins, and reduced the differential in blocked shots to 4, with Anaheim leading 23-19. Anaheim finished the night 1 for 3 on the power play, while the Blackhawks were 0 for 3 on the night.

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

With the 5-2 win at home, the Chicago Blackhawks tied the series 3-3, sending the Western Conference Finals to a Game 7 on Saturday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Puck drop is scheduled for 8 PM on NBC.

The winner will not only be the Western Conference champion, but will have the advantage of knowing who they will face in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals, as the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning battle in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

This year marks the first time since 2000, that both conference finals have gone all the way to Game 7’s to determine the Stanley Cup Finalists. Fifteen years ago, the New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers to represent the Eastern Conference, while the Dallas Stars topped the Colorado Avalanche to represent the Western Conference.

Rangers Force Game 7, Win 7-3 in Game 6

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

New York Rangers LogoThe New York Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Amalie Arena. The first line for The Rangers combined for 13 points with Derick Brassard earning 5 points, with a hat trick and two assists. The Rangers chased Ben Bishop from the game early in the third period.

The first period witnessed the Rangers making the most of their chances facing elimination. The game started with teams exchanging chances, including an early breakaway by Jesper Fast that was broken up by Victor Hedman. The Lightning then brought the puck to the other end and Alex Killorn tried a wrap around that was blocked by Dan Boyle. At 3:36 of the 1st period, Derick Brassard received a great pass from JT Miller and shot it five hole on Ben Bishop, scoring the game’s first goal. It was Brassard’s seventh goal in the playoffs, and tied him for the team lead with Chris Kreider.

Puck luck began to bounce in Tampa’s favor as they got a variety of chances from many players. Hedman had a few chances as he began skating the puck into the offensive zone and putting shots on goal, but Henrik Lundqvist had the answer every time. Another chance came from Ryan Callahan, after he took and sent a shot towards the twine. Again, however, Lundqvist made the save. A few moments later, Marc Staal took the game’s first penalty and was sent to the box for holding the stick of Brenden Morrow.

On the following power play, Steven Stamkos got a point blank opportunity, which was denied by the pad of Lundqvist. The Rangers then killed off the penalty and used the momentum of the moment to go the other direction and score another goal. This time it was a shot from Keith Yandle from the point, which found the back of the net by screens.

This sparked Tampa’s first line as they began throwing their weight around with hit after hit. Steven Stamkos delivered a questionable hit on Ryan McDonagh, which made Chris Kreider try to take disciplining Stamkos into his own hands thereby taking a cross checking penalty. A scrum ensued between Stamkos and Derek Stepan and as a result, both took cross checking penalties with 3 minutes remaining in the period, giving the Lightning a power play.

Unknown-1Ben Bishop sent the puck to Anton Stralman, who found Ryan Callahan on a breakaway. This time Callahan didn’t make a mistake and put it by Lundqvist on the backhand. Tampa had dominated the offense in the first period outshooting New York 16-7. The Rangers made the most of their chances and had the 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.

The second period was a quiet period, except for the crashing of the bodies into the boards. The physical play escalated quickly into the gams as from the opening faceoff of the second period. The teams exchanged chances with both Ben Bishop and Hendrik Lundqvist playing excellent; keeping both teams off the boards in the early minutes of the period.

About seven minutes into the period, Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov took a hooking penalty and gave New York a power play, which Tampa was able to kill off. The Lightning had some chances after the penalty kill, as Brian Boyle and JT Brown each had chances that were turned aside by Lundqvist. With 3 minutes left in the 2nd period, Brenden Morrow was sent to the box for hooking. On the dying seconds of the penalty kill, Tyler Johnson got a chance, but Lundqvist shut the door and denied a goal. Tampa is still outshooting the Rangers by a big margin, but Lundqvist has been there to answer all of the shots. Lundqvist to this point has stopped 28 of 29 in the game.

New York dominated the third period from puck drop. The Rangers ran out and amassed chance after chance. The Rangers doubled their lead when JT Miller scored his first playoff goal with assists from Brassard and Rick Nash. The Rangers weren’t done yet as James Sheppard got his first of the playoffs at 6:02 of the 3rd period, after winning a battle in the crease.

New York continued to pour it on Tampa as Brassard picked up his second of the night, a minute and fourteen seconds later, with a tap in. The Lightning finally had enough and had to pull Ben Bishop and replace him with Andrei Vasilevskiy, in what was Vasilevsky’s second appearance in the playoffs.

Tampa, discouraged, got going a little as a minute later Nikita Kucherov added his 8th of the playoffs off a faceoff won by Tyler Johnson. Tampa’s Nikita Nesterov took a penalty for slashing Derick Brassard. This time, New York’s power play unit was successful, putting out Tampa’s spark, as Rick Nash scored a PP goal with help from Yandle and Miller halfway through the period, making it 6-2. Unlike the rest of his teammate’s, Nikita Kucherov didn’t give up as he scored again from a beautiful saucer pass from Tyler Johnson to make it 6-3.

Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

With almost 6 minutes remaining in the period the Lightning pulled their goalie for a man advantage. At 15:36 of the 3rd period, Dan Girardi took a penalty for delay of game giving the Lightning a power play and a two man advantage with the net empty. The Rangers killed off the penalty and 18:19 of the 3rd, Derick Brassard hit the empty net to complete the hat trick and cap off a 5 point night.

The Rangers line of Brassard, Nash and Miller had a tremendous night with Brassard leading the way with 3 goals and 2 assists. However, Nash and Miller helped out too, with each getting a goal and 3 assists. Henrik Lundqvist also had a decent performance, with help from the Rangers defensemen. The Rangers numbers abounded broken up passes and Tampa’s offense couldn’t get anything started when every pass was broken up. Game 7 will be at Madison Square Garden on Friday, May 29th, 2015 with coverage on NBCSN at 8 pm.

Beleskey Ends it Early in OT (for once) and the Ducks are 1 Win Away from the Finals

2015 Western Conference Finals Game 5 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown45 seconds into overtime was all it took for Matt Beleskey and the Anaheim Ducks to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on Monday night in Game 5 at the Honda Center. For the third time in the 2015 Western Conference Finals, overtime was necessary, but unlike the last two times in overtime, the Ducks won. Frederik Andersen, despite a shaky effort, made 24 saves on 28 shots against en route to the win, while Corey Crawford made 23 saves on 28 shots against in the loss.

After an impressive Game 4 effort by both teams, Game 5 began with complete domination by the Anaheim Ducks. It seemed as though Chicago Blackhawks goaltender, Corey Crawford, and the rest of the team had forgotten about the start time of Game 5, as the Ducks quickly amassed a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period.

Two goals in a span of 32 seconds from Cam Fowler and Ryan Kesler quickly gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead before Sami Vatanen tacked on his 3rd of the playoffs at 14:37 of the first period to make it 3-0 Anaheim. The Blackhawks had not even recorded a shot on goal and were down in a 3-0 hole as the Ducks were outshooting them 10-0. At 16:21 Chicago got their first shot on net.

Shots on goal were both a rarity and in abundance. They were a rarity for Chicago during the first period and in abundance for Anaheim in the opening twenty minutes, but then the roles were reversed for the second frame. The Blackhawks quickly rallied back into the thick of it, only 1:11 into the period, making it a 3-1 game on a goal from Teuvo Teravainen, assisted by Antoine Vermette and Patrick Sharp.

Unknown-2Chicago then fired 6 consecutive shots on goal before the Ducks had another shot on goal in the second period, sometime after the halfway mark. Both teams went 0 for 2 on power play opportunities in Game 5 and with 24.8 seconds left in the 2nd period, Brent Seabrook fired a blast past Frederik Andersen, giving Teravainen and Sharp assists on what began a run of soft goals given up by Andersen.

The 3rd period began with a power play for the Chicago Blackhawks at 1:43 of the 3rd, as Clayton Stoner was sent to the box for hooking. Despite numerous chances, the power play unit was unsuccessful as the Ducks killed the penalty and held their ground. Things looked as though the Ducks would escape the third period unscathed for the large part as they began to possess the puck well and controlled the flow of the game.

However, the Blackhawks had begun to outshoot the Ducks, something that had not happened for the entire game until there was roughly fourteen minutes left in the 3rd period. Despite trailing 3-2, it looked like things might revert back to the first period for Chicago and thus out of reach. Ryan Getzlaf sent a pass up ice to Sami Vatanen, who rushed in with Patrick Maroon crashing the net, setting Maroon up with a perfect pass that was deflected behind Crawford for a 4-2 Ducks lead. The goal was Maroon’s 6th of the playoffs.

Ryan Getzlaf had thus set a new franchise record for the Ducks with his assist on Maroon’s goal for most points in a single postseason run in (19). And with a two goal lead a little more than halfway in the third period, things were looking good for Anaheim. In fact, of the final four teams remaining in the playoffs (ANA, CHI, NYR, and TB) the team leading after two periods was 24-1, so the odds were going pretty well for them, before the Ducks pulled off the win (thereby making that stat 25-1 now).

With under 2:30 to go in regulation, Chicago pulled Crawford for an extra skater. At 18:10 of the 3rd period, Jonathan Toews rocketed a wrist shot past Andersen after Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith worked hard to keep the puck in the zone and set up Toews for the goal. A little over a minute later, Toews scored his 2nd of the game and 7th of the playoffs on an impossible angle from behind the goal line. Andersen had given up a rather soft goal earlier in the game, and gave up perhaps the softest goal of the game on Toews’s second goal.

The game was tied, 4-4, and heading for overtime.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

In just 45 seconds of overtime, Anaheim put 4 shots on goal, including the game winner. Matt Beleskey scored his 7th of the playoffs on a juicy rebound given up by a diving Crawford from one side of the net to the other, to no avail. Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg were credited with assists on the game-winning goal.

At the end of the day, the Anaheim Ducks outplayed the Chicago Blackhawks. While goaltending was certainly an issue for both teams, the Ducks were able to overcome given their control of the smaller, but equally important elements, of the game such as faceoff wins (39-26 in favor of ANA) and blocked shots, 21-11. While they’ll need superb goaltending from Frederik Andersen moving forward, especially if they look to move on, they’ll still head to Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead.

Game 6 is on Wednesday night in Chicago at the United Center and can be seen at 8 PM EST on NBCSN.

Bolts Strike Twice and Beat Rangers, Stamkos Leads the Way to a 3-2 Series Lead

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 5 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

Unknown-1The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Rangers 2-0 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. The first line from Tampa stepped up with Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula each scoring a goal in the second period. Ben Bishop and Tampa’s defense found a way to keep the Ranger’s off the board entirely, earning Bishop the shutout.

The first period saw few chances for both teams, along with a lot of scrappy play and board battles. Tampa had a quick chance in the first minute of the game, when Tyler Johnson got a shot wide of the net. The Rangers also had a few chances on a 2 on 1 breakout led by Martin St. Louis but it was stopped by Bishop. Nearly 4 minutes into the period Tampa took the game’s first penalty, as the Lightning were called for too many men on the ice.

On the ensuing power play, quick passing from the Rangers gave Chris Kreider a great chance that hit the side of the net. About 3 minutes later the Rangers took their first penalty, when Marc Staal was penalized for interference. New York held their blue line and didn’t give up any major chances while on the penalty kill.

The game then transitioned to many battles along the boards and a lot of grind-it-out play. New York held Tampa in their defensive zone for a decent amount of the period. Tampa was struggling to get their offense going and frustration took over as Johnson took a slashing penalty with 5 minutes remaining in the period. The Lightning then killed off the penalty kill with ease. Offense was a rarity during the period as the Rangers only had 6 shots on goal and Tampa had a measly 4 shots on goal through 20 minutes of play.

New York Rangers LogoTampa got yet another quick start to the second period, similar to the first period. This time it was Stamkos alone in front, after a turnover, firing a wrist shot that was matched by Lundqvist’s glove hand. Riding the momentum of the save, the Rangers had an upper hand on the game-playing along the boards, behind the net. This made a terrific chance for Derek Stepan, as he sent a one-timer on Bishop that was denied.

Tampa then took a series of penalties; the first one came at 7:19 of the period for a high stick from Jason Garrison on Rick Nash. The penalty kill for Tampa was unmatched by the New York’s power play unit and actually created a chance for Alex Killorn on a 2 on 1 heading the other way, but was denied by Lundqvist. Tampa killed off Garrison’s penalty, but found themselves shorthanded again a minute later as Andrej Sustr tripped Carl Hagelin. Similar to the last penalty kill, the Lightning made the kill and only allowed Rick Nash a chance that was thwarted by Bishop.

Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

Finally, Valtteri Filppula scored the game’s first goal as Stamkos received a stretch pass from Anton Stralman, who then passed it to Filppula in the slot, putting it past Lundqvist with six minutes remaining in the period. Tampa had found their offense and began to establish the zone and eventually was able to draw a penalty, that sent Marc Staal to the box for tripping with 3 minutes remaining in period.

The Lightning didn’t pass up the opportunity to double their lead, as Steven Stamkos rocketed home his seventh of the playoff, with help from Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat on the power play. Ben Bishop had stopped all 16 of New York’s shots to this point and Lundqvist’s numbers weren’t looking as good with 13 saves on 15 shots.

The third period witnessed a strong defensive performance by the Lightning and saw the Rangers try everything to get their offense going. Even though the Rangers were on the attack from the opening faceoff of the period, Tampa managed to pressure in their offensive zone and brought a penalty on New York. Chris Kreider went to the sin bin for a delay of game penalty. Tampa couldn’t amount anything on the power play and the Rangers killed it off.

New York juggled their lines in hopes of seeing a result and had a line consisting of Nash, Stepan, and Kreider that created a great chance after Nash spun around a pass to Stepan for the one timer, but Ben Bishop was there to make the save. New York was dominating play and it was tilted in their favor, but couldn’t beat Bishop try after try.

The Rangers pulled Lundqvist with 3 minutes left and a minute later Palat and Brassard took matching minor penalties for slashing. The clock counted down to zero and gave Ben Bishop another shut out in this year’s playoffs. Bishop stopped all 26 shots he faced, while Lundqvist allowed 2 goals on 22 shots.

Tampa’s defense was the story of Game 5, as they protected Bishop and preserved the shutout. The Lightning’s penalty kill was also strong in Game 5, forcing the Rangers empty handed on the man advantage- New York wound up 0 for 4 on power plays. The first line continued to produce with both Stamkos and Filppula scoring goals. The Rangers got the type of game they wanted with a low scoring game, but couldn’t find a way past Ben Bishop. The series is now 3-2 in favor of Tampa, with Game 6 back in Tampa, Florida at Amalie Arena on May 26th at 8 pm with televised coverage on NBCSN.

Vermette Scores in 2OT to Win it for Chicago, ANA Scores 3 in 37 seconds in 3rd

2015 Western Conference Finals Game 4 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-2A sold out crowd at the United Center was rocking the arena’s foundation to its core on Saturday night as the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks squared off in Game 4 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals. The building was sent into a frenzy many times and experienced plenty of lows at other times, but somehow the Blackhawks prevailed 5-4 in double overtime as Antoine Vermette scored his first game winning playoff goal since April 25th, 2006- back when he was a member of the Ottawa Senators.

Corey Crawford, with the win, made 47 saves on 51 shots against, while Frederik Andersen saved 35 of 40 shots on goal. Chicago improved to 6-1 at home in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs as Anaheim fell to 4-2 on the road in the playoffs. The series, meanwhile is now tied 2-2.

Chicago led in many categories at the end of the 1st period, finally dominating the dominators of the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far, the Anaheim Ducks. The Blackhawks had 14 shots on goal compared to the Ducks 6 shots on goal. Chicago also led faceoff wins 9-7 and takeaways 4-3. The physical game was also much closer at the end of twenty minutes in Game 4 than all of the previous games in the series as the Ducks lead 22-16 in hits.

With 2:20 to go, Brent Seabrook took a minor penalty for slashing Anaheim’s, Ryan Kesler, and gave the Ducks their first power play opportunity of the night. Marcus Kruger had an important defensive zone faceoff win that led to the Blackhawks clearing the puck and killing time on the penalty. Anaheim was never fully able to gain an entrance into the offensive zone and caused a turnover that led to Chicago moving the puck past a stumbling Francois Beauchemin- who had tripped after making contact with referee, Chris Rooney- and to the tape of Brandon Saad.

Saad prevented a diving Anaheim defenseman from knocking the puck off his stick and put one past Andersen for his 4th of the playoffs and the 1-0 lead at 19:13 of the 1st period. The Blackhawks came out as a much better team in Game 4 than they had been in Game 3, however, the Ducks further proved why they are a sixty minute effort team as they began to open things up in the 2nd period.

UnknownShortly after Jonathan Toews’s high sticking penalty had come to an end, the Anaheim Ducks got on the scoreboard with a redirected goal from Emerson Etem (his 3rd of the playoffs) assisted by Kyle Palmieri and Francois Beauchemin. After two periods of play, both teams were 0 for 2 on the power play. The Ducks continued to lead in hits, 35-32, and blocked shots, 16-12, but Chicago was still dominating on the faceoff dot, 26-14.

If the first period was all Blackhawks, then the second period was all Ducks, who limited Chicago to just 6 shots on goal in the 2nd. Anaheim, meanwhile, nearly doubled their shots on goal total in that period and tightened the total shots on goal to a close 20-19 statistic in favor of the Blackhawks. Despite the second period dominance from the Ducks, the Blackhawks did have one thing going in their favor- Corey Crawford’s reflexes.

Crawford denied Matt Beleskey on a brilliant opportunity on the rebound with quick reflexes and athleticism that at the time held the 1-0 lead for Chicago, until Etem tied it later in the period. The 1st period was dominated by Chicago, the 2nd period was dominated by Anaheim, and the 3rd period, was wide open and one for the ages.

Nearly three minutes into the 3rd period, Jonathan Toews fired home a wrist shot that beat Andersen and made it a one-goal lead for Chicago. Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa picked up assists on Toews’s goal. The Blackhawks had a 2-1 lead and were outshooting the Ducks 26-19 nearly seven minutes into the third.

Brent Seabrook added his fourth of the playoffs on a slap shot from the point, giving Chicago a 3-1 lead, as Saad picked up his 2nd assist on the night and Toews earned his first. Saad wound up with a goal and two assists for a three-point night and a solid effort alongside Toews and Hossa on the Blackhawks first line.

Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

And then the magic happened. The Anaheim Ducks scored 3 goals in 37 seconds, going from trailing from 3-1 to leading 4-3. Ryan Kesler scored his 5th of the playoffs with help from Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano at 8:42 of the third, then Matt Beleskey added his 6th of the playoffs on an individual effort at 9:05, and finally Corey Perry pocketed his 9th of the playoffs with his goal at 9:19 of the 3rd period, assisted by Ryan Getzlaf.

The United Center went from the euphoria of a 3-1 lead to the silence and chaos of trailing 4-3.

Anaheim’s miracle 3 goals in 37 seconds were the 2nd fastest three goals scored in Stanley Cup Playoffs history. Only the 1979 Toronto Maple Leafs did so faster in a playoff matchup with the Atlanta Flames- it only took them, an NHL record, 23 seconds.

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

It wasn’t long before the Ducks took a penalty at 12:23 of the 3rd period, though. Silfverberg was sent to the box with a two-minute minor penalty for holding and the Chicago Blackhawks went on the power play for the third time on the night.

You know as they say, the third time’s a charm, and it was for the Chicago’s power play unit as Patrick Kane tied the game 4-4 with a power play goal on a nice set up from Brad Richards and Duncan Keith. Kane’s 9th of the playoffs came at 12:39 of the period and capped off a span of 6 goals scored between both teams in a 10:01 span.

At the end of regulation, Chicago led the shots on goal department, 33-31, and faceoff wins, 39-26. Anaheim, meanwhile, led in hits 44-42, and blocked shots 23-13. An exciting overtime was set after the intermission allowed for the Zamboni’s to resurface the ice and fans were able to regulate their heartbeats once again.

The first overtime saw end-to-end action, as well as battles all over the ice. The Ducks had 10 shots on goal before the Blackhawks got their first shot on goal in overtime. At 9:44 of overtime, Sami Vatanen took a holding penalty and gave Chicago their fourth power play opportunity of the night. Fortunately for the Ducks, the Blackhawks were not able to capitalize on their man advantage and Anaheim killed off Vatanen’s penalty with ease.

Neither team was able to score as the intensity wore off and the pace settled in. The end of overtime assured that for the 2nd time in the 2015 Western Conference Finals there would be at least double overtime before determining a winner. Anaheim had finally overtaken Chicago in shots on goal with 47-38 at the end of the first overtime. The Ducks were still out hitting the Blackhawks, 58-49, and blocked 32 shots compared to Chicago’s 18 blocked shots.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, still had a faceoff advantage having led faceoff wins 44-37 after four periods of hockey. In terms of special teams, neither team took another penalty in the game, so the Blackhawks were also winning that department by virtue of having scored a power play goal.

Both teams emerged from the locker rooms for the second overtime and began with noticeable difference in energy. Perhaps still fatigued by the marathon triple overtime- nearly quadruple overtime- Game 2, neither team could get a grip on controlling the game-flow.

Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

At 5:37 of the second overtime, Antoine Vermette- acquired before the trade deadline in March by the Blackhawks- scored the game-winning goal on a rebound off of Anaheim goalie, Frederik Andersen.

The goal was Vermette’s 2nd of the playoffs and was assisted by Patrick Sharp and Teuvo Teravainen. In keeping with typical Stanley Cup Playoffs fashion, the overtime winning goal was scored by an unexpected hero who had in fact, came up clutch when least thought possible, after having been a healthy scratch for Chicago in Game 3.

The final shots on goal outcome was 51-40, in favor of Anaheim, who also led hits, 60-52, and blocked shots, 34-20, at the end of the night. Chicago laid claim to faceoff wins 48-40 and the more important, final score, 5-4 in double overtime.

With the Blackhawks win the series is now tied at 2-2. Game 5 is Monday night at 9 PM EST at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The series is now virtually a best of three game competition with at least two more games to be held.

One thing is for sure, these two teams are bringing out the best in each other- and that’s exciting hockey to watch.

Rangers, in Dominant Fashion, Take Game 4 and Tie Series 2-2

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 4 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

New York Rangers LogoThe New York Rangers bounced back from Game 3 to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 in Game 4 at Amalie Arena on Friday night. The stars for the Rangers showed up with two goals from Rick Nash and one from Martin St. Louis. Henrik Lundqvist had 38 saves, while only allowing one goal. The Rangers also managed to keep Tampa’s Triplet Line off the scoresheet altogether.

The first period saw a better defensive performance from the Rangers as they limited the chances for Tampa. The Lightning’s first true scoring chance came 4 minutes into the period when Nikita Kucherov found the puck in front of Hendrik Lundqvist and shot it over the net. New York took the first penalty of game 8 minutes into the first period when Martin St. Louis was sent to the sin bin for interference.

Tyler Johnson then got a great chance on the power-play, as he found the puck in the front of the net and rang it off the post. About 4 minutes later, Tampa’s Anton Stralman took an interference penalty of his own on a hit delivered to Kevin Hayes. Tampa managed to kill the penalty without even allowing on shot on Ben Bishop. With under 3 minutes left in the period Rick Nash snapped his cold streak with a power move, in which he slid the puck past Bishop’s leg pad into the net. Both teams finished the first period equal in shots on goal with seven apiece.

The second period saw the undisciplined Rangers show up from the first minute when Marc Staal took a holding penalty on Cedric Paquette. While on the penalty kill the Rangers had a great chance with a 2 on 1 that ended up with Nash trying another power move that was denied by Bishop’s pad. Just a few seconds later, Alex Killorn had a breakaway from a stretch pass sent by Victor Hedman on the power play and was denied by Lundqvist. The Rangers killed the penalty, but a few minutes later Killorn got another chance while on a 2 on 1, but the puck slipped off the end of his stick and went wide of Lundqvist.

Unknown-1At this point in the game, it was all one way traffic in favor of Tampa. The Rangers found themselves down a man again, when Chris Kreider took a penalty for tripping Brenden Morrow. Tampa had a few chances on the power play, but the Rangers managed to kill it off again. The Lightning couldn’t be kept off the board long after that though, as Steven Stamkos managed to beat Lundqvist with a slap shot from the slot.

The game didn’t stay tied for long, however, as just 3 minutes later New York regained the lead. Kreider managed to find his 7th goal of the playoffs on what was yet another rebound goal. The Rangers weren’t done however, as two minutes later Keith Yandle got his first of the playoffs, sending a shot that bounced off Hedman past Bishop.

Tampa continued to fire at the net, but Lundqvist remained superior and continued to shine through two periods. After forty minutes of play, Lundqvist had 25 saves on 26 shots. While at the other end of the ice, Bishop was having a rough game, stopping only 10 shots on 13 shots against.

The third period started similar to the second period, as Tampa continued to shoot without any rewards to show for it. The Lightning took their second penalty of the game just 4 minutes into the period with Nikita Nesterov high sticking St. Louis. On the ensuing power play, St. Louis finally got his first of the playoffs, putting a shot in the open side of the net on a back door pass from Derick Brassard.

Halfway through the period Tampa’s Brenden Morrow was called for hooking. The Rangers capitalized again with Yandle’s shot from the point deflected on goal by Kevin Hayes and banged home on the rebound by Nash, past the legs of Bishop, for his second of the night.

The game finished with a lot of scrums from frustrated Lightning players, culminating in a barrage of penalties. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Carl Hagelin, and Ryan McDonagh all received roughing penalties. Severl game misconducts were handed out to a few players, including Nikita Kucherov, Kevin Klein, Morrow, Tanner Glass and Paquette. Eventually time expired, ending Lundqvist’s great night- stopping 38 of 39 shots on goal. It also brought the end of Ben Bishop’s rough night- only stopping 19 of 24 shots on goal.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

This game saw the appearance of all of the Rangers superstar’s, Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, and Henrik Lundqvist. All of them had amazing games in Game 4. St. Louis finally got the all-important first goal of his playoff run, and his play changed immediately afterwards, as he continued to create chance after chance.

Rick Nash had a two goal night, and his form looked as it did during the regular season. Keith Yandle also had a terrific night with a goal and two assists in the best performance of these playoffs for him. The first star of the game still goes to Lundqvist who had a huge bounce back after Game 3’s uncharacteristic performance.

Tampa’s Triplet Line and big stars had a lot of chances, but couldn’t find a way to put the puck to the back of the net. Ben Bishop struggled and the puck didn’t bounce in his favor on Friday night. The series is now tied at 2-2 with it now effectively becoming a best of 3 to see who will represent the Eastern Conference in the 2015 Stanley Cup finals. Game 5 is Sunday at 8 PM with TV coverage on NBCSN.

Despres, Ducks, Down Blackhawks 2-1 in Game 3

2015 Western Conference Finals Game 3 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

UnknownIn front of a sold out United Center the Chicago Blackhawks lost 2-1 on Thursday night to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 3 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals. Simon Despres scored the game winning goal for Anaheim and Frederik Andersen made 27 saves on 28 shots to earn the win. Chicago’s, Corey Crawford, made 25 saves on 27 shots faced in the loss.

If anyone was still tired from Game 2, it didn’t show to start Game 3. Nearly thirteen minutes into the 1st period, Anaheim Ducks forward, Patrick Maroon, pocketed his 5th goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the back of the twine to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. Despite four failed power play opportunities, the Chicago Blackhawks answered back on the scoreboard at 19:03 of the 1st period with a goal of their own. Patrick Kane registered his 8th of the playoffs and first of the series to make it a 1-1 hockey game heading into the first intermission.

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

No penalties were called in the 2nd period, leading some to wonder if either team even touched the ice at all for the seemingly lost twenty minutes of play. That is until Simon Despres scored his first goal of the playoffs with 54 seconds left in the period to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead heading into the 2nd intermission.

Although there were no penalties, or aggression, exchanged between both teams, there were plenty of scoring chances and saves made by Frederik Andersen and Corey Crawford. At the end of two periods of play, the Ducks led the shots on goal category 22-18. Anaheim also led in several other statistics, including hits (31-19) and blocked shots (18-9). Despite Anaheim’s dominance in stats, the United Center was still rocking through the night, packed full with Chicago Blackhawks fans.

The 3rd period witnessed no scoring, but was full of penalties (at least compared to the 2nd period). Ryan Getzlaf was called for high sticking on a controversial call at 5:02 of the 3rd. Video replay showed that Getzlaf’s stick did not make any contact with Andrew Shaw. Nearly five minutes later, Ryan Keseler and Duncan Keith were sent off the ice with coincidental minor penalties, leaving the Ducks and the Blackhawks to some 4 on 4 hockey for two minutes.

Unknown-2With 2 minutes left in the game, the Blackhawks pulled Crawford for an extra attacker. Unfortunately, after multiple offensive zone faceoff chances, Chicago could not capitalize on keeping the puck in the zone. Anaheim kept aiming for the empty net, but could not bury an insurance goal. With less than 10 seconds to go, Patrick Kane fired a last chance shot towards the goal that was waffle-boarded away by Andersen and the Ducks took home the victory.

After showing no signs of fatigue in the first period, fatigue eventually set in during the second period and the rest of the game. Both teams played a slower paced game after the marathon triple overtime Game 2 on Tuesday night. Luck won out for the Ducks at the end of the day, who now have a 2-1 series lead heading into Saturday night’s Game 4 in Chicago.

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