The Anaheim Ducks took a 2-0 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, and they withstood a late charge as they finished off a 4-1 victory in the contest.
Brad Richards scored the lone goal of the game for the Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 23 saves as the Blackhawks find themselves behind in a series for the first time this postseason.
The Blackhawks got a power play just over a minute into the game when Corey Perry slashed Patrick Kane in the neutral zone, but it was Anaheim that had the first good scoring chances. Jakub Silfverberg nearly scored a short-handed goal off a Ryan Kesler rebound, but Corey Crawford made the save as the net came off the moorings to keep it scoreless.
After that failed power play, the Blackhawks seemed to take control of the tempo of the contest. Patrick Sharp had a nice one-timer from the slot off of a feed from Teuvo Teravainen, but Frederik Andersen made the save. Kane then got a loose puck in the middle of the ice and nearly scored into an empty cage, but Andersen hit the shot up over the net. Off the ensuing face-off, Sharp got another shot off at the net, but Andersen made the save once again.
The Ducks started pushing back a bit after the midway point of the period, and they ultimately scored to take the lead. David Rundblad failed to break up the zone entry by the Ducks, and Jakub Silfverberg made a gorgeous play as he circled around to the boards and fired a pass back to the point. Hampus Lindholm then ripped a shot in toward the net that evaded Crawford, and the home team grabbed a 1-0 lead.
The Blackhawks had a few more good chances to score late in the first period, but the game-tying goal wasn’t coming. Teravainen established possession through the middle of the slot, but the Hawks couldn’t force in a shot through traffic as the Ducks held onto their lead through 20 minutes of play.
After the intermission, the Ducks started pushing back at the Blackhawks, and they were rewarded with a goal. Johnny Oduya and Rundblad both failed to clear the puck from behind the net, and then Nate Thompson’s shot toward the front was kicked out by Crawford. Kyle Palmieri then picked up the rebound and rifled a one-timer over the goaltender’s shoulder, and Anaheim seized a 2-0 advantage.
The damage could have been even worse for the Blackhawks later in the period as Niklas Hjalmarsson was sent off for tripping, but the Hawks’ penalty kill came up big against the league’s top-ranked power play as they killed off the infraction. Matt Beleskey did have one good shot on goal during the man-advantage, but Crawford blocked it away to keep it a two goal game.
With less than a minute to go in the period, the Blackhawks finally were able to solve Andersen as they scored a key goal. Brad Richards made the play happen as he wrestled the puck away from Francois Beauchemin at the blue line, and then his breakaway ended with a goal as he snuck a shot between Andersen’s blocker and chest to make it a 2-1 game after two periods of play.
As the third period got underway, the Blackhawks got a pair of power plays but were unable to convert on either of them. Richards did come close to getting his second goal of the day on the first man-advantage situation, and Brandon Saad had a killer rebound chance as well, but Andersen made some good saves as he kept his team in front despite the pressure.
Just after the halfway mark of the period, the Ducks got an odd-man rush scoring chance thanks to a missed play by Duncan Keith, and they made Chicago pay. Crawford was able to stop the initial shot off the stick of Andrew Cogliano, but Thompson picked up his second point of the day as he flipped the puck past the sprawled out goaltender to give Anaheim a 3-1 lead with about eight minutes to go.
The Blackhawks ended up surrendering an empty net goal late in the third period, and they find themselves trailing in a series for the first time since they trailed 3-2 in the Western Conference Final last season. They will try to even things up when the two teams meet for Game 2 in Anaheim on Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. Central time.