Ducks take control of series with 2-1 win over Chicago Blackhawks

Ducks take control of series with 2-1 win over Chicago Blackhawks
Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews reacts after losing Game 3 to the Ducks, 2-1, in Chicago. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

Bruce Boudreau has never lived the feelings the Ducks bring him with each new victory, but he is intimately familiar with what makes his team tick.

So when his players ventured to the United Center on Thursday and emerged with a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, the coach responded in little more than casual delight.

"It told me what I know," Boudreau said. "This was a character win."

The Ducks own a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference finals with Game 4 Saturday again in Chicago, putting the coach appearing in his first conference final just two victories from the Stanley Cup Final.

Tired but resolute a game after their triple-overtime loss in Anaheim on Tuesday, the Ducks did it by committing to the essentials of their season-long success.

They out-hit Chicago 45-27 and blocked 27 shots to the Blackhawks' nine.

Ducks defenseman Simon Despres became the eighth Anaheim player with a game-winning goal this postseason, one-timing a shot that beat Chicago goalie Corey Crawford low to his left with 55 seconds remaining in the second period.

Ducks right wing Corey Perry shielded Crawford on first-line mate Patrick Maroon's first-period goal.

On Despres' goal, Perry lured Crawford's attention to the right by skating in front of the goalie who had 60 saves in Tuesday's classic.

"I just put it on net, to be honest, but Corey's a machine in front of the net," Despres said. "He makes a lot of big goals in front and Crawford was definitely thinking about Perry on that play."

With his assist, Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf tied his own team record with his 14th assist of the playoffs.

That soon brought Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen to the second intermission, where he rested and committed to keeping the advantage a game after his 53 saves weren't enough to win.

That defeat had potential to severely deflate the Southern Californians, forcing them into the hostile venue packed with 22,160 fans expecting their team to seize control of the series.

The Ducks started the night shakily, committing five giveaways in the first 10 minutes, and the ice was so bad, defenseman Sami Vatanen told a reporter afterward he was forced to change blades three times.

But helped by Matt Beleskey's team-high eight hits and defenseman Cam Fowler's five blocks, Andersen did the rest to clinch victory.

Facing empty-net pressure in the final two minutes, he stood up to two late charges by Chicago's Patrick Kane, who scored the Blackhawks' only goal on a sparkling backhander.


"Every team is going to come down hard in the third if they're down by one. We did a good job of just battling with them," Andersen said. "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 finished with 27 saves, and the same teammates struck by two power-play goals Tuesday killed off all five penalties they confronted, including one in the final period.

"The will on this team, I've said all year from day one, you could see it in training camp, you could see it in the preseason games," Boudreau said. "You [reporters] would talk to me and say there's a different aura about this group. We haven't won anything, but there is a resiliency that's as good as most."

It was the Blackhawks' first home playoff loss after a 5-0 start this postseason.

"We wanted to be better," Andersen said. "We have a great team that is willing to sacrifice themselves like that. It's awesome to have a group of guys like that in front of you."

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire