CHICAGO — Simon Despres‘ first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal helped the Anaheim Ducks defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.
The Ducks lead the best-of-7 series 2-1. Game 4 is Saturday in Chicago (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
“It was definitely a big one to score a game-winning goal in the third round against Chicago,” said 23-year-old Despres. “Getzy made a nice play. We moved the puck well on that shift.”
Despres, acquired at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline from the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Ben Lovejoy, gave Anaheim the lead late in the second period. Getzlaf set up at the top of the zone and sent a pass to his left to defenseman Cam Fowler. After he got the puck back, Getzlaf moved it to his right, and Despres was ready for a one-timer from the outside of the circle.
“His goal was a great one-timer,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “He doesn’t get a chance to one-time the puck too often from his position, but it was a great goal and a great shot.”
Getzlaf’s 14 assists are five more than anyone else in the postseason; the Ducks have played 12 games, four fewer than the Tampa Bay Lightning, three fewer than the New York Rangers and one fewer than the Blackhawks. His 16 points are tied with linemate Corey Perry and Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov for second behind Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson, who has 18.
Ducks forward Patrick Maroon opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 12:55 of the first period. Maroon deflected Hampus Lindholm‘s shot from the top of the offensive zone in the high slot, and the puck slipped past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford with a little help from a screen by Perry at the edge of the crease. It was Maroon’s fifth goal of the postseason.
The Blackhawks had more than seven minutes on the power play in the first period, including a double minor against the Ducks’ Jakob Silfverberg for high sticking, but were unable to score. Chicago did hit the post twice with the man-advantage, and a third time when defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson one-timed a Perry clearing attempt.
“We were doing all the little things,” said Nate Thompson, on the team’s penalty kill. “The No. 1 penalty killer was Freddie. He made some big saves, but we all had good sticks in the lane. We were blocking shots and weren’t giving them free entries. That’s important, especially on the four-minute power play.”
Chicago did eventually score the equalizer later in the first. A Blackhawks rush appeared to be nullified when Brad Richards’ pass hit Patrick Kane in the skate in the middle of the ice, but two Ducks players swerved to avoid a collision and left Kane with the puck all alone in the slot.
Kane backhanded a shot past Andersen with 57 seconds left. It was his eighth goal of the postseason, but first of the series after scoring six times in five games prior to the start of this round.
Anaheim’s victory comes two days after a heartbreaking loss in triple overtime in what ended up being the longest game ever played inside Honda Center and the longest in Blackhawks franchise history.