Matt Beleskey and Anaheim Ducks catch huge Game 5 win on the rebound
All that had transpired before was washed away Monday when Matt Beleskey raced toward Chicago’s net and converted the overtime goal that left the Ducks one victory from the Stanley Cup Final.
The big blown leads. The imposing pedigree of the Chicago Blackhawks. All the numbers that favored the visitors, all the experts’ expectations of how this series would end.
“I watched NHL Network all night last night and didn’t hear one word about Anaheim,” Beleskey said. “But tonight will be a different story.”
In Game 5 of the Western Conference finals at Honda Center, the Ducks bounced back after squandering a 3-0 first-period lead and, even worse, a 4-2 advantage in the final two minutes of the third period to defeat Chicago, 5-4, on Beleskey’s goal 45 seconds into overtime.
The Ducks lead the series, three games to two, and Game 6 is Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago.
The game-winner was set up when second-line center Ryan Kesler raced toward Corey Crawford and unleashed a drive that the Chicago goalie blocked.
Right there was Beleskey, who pounced on the rebound and, he said, swatted the puck “as hard as I could” past the out-of-position Crawford and into the center of the net, then did “my best Bobby Orr dive” in celebration.
By doing so, the Ducks stained the previous Chicago perfection that seemed to indicate the visitors would steal victory. The Blackhawks had been 4-0 in overtime playoff games this year, and Coach Joel Quenneville had been 7-0 in Game 5s.
The events that pushed the Blackhawks to the third overtime game of this series made it seem like spiritual forces were at play.
The Ducks appeared to have iced victory when Patrick Maroon scored with 5:15 remaining in the third period for a 4-2 lead.
But 15 seconds after the desperate Blackhawks pulled Crawford, center Jonathan Toews blasted a wicked shot through traffic and past Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen to make it 4-3 with 1:50 left.
Then, with Crawford out again, Toews sent a longshot attempt from deep in the left corner at the goal line, and the puck glanced off Andersen’s left skate and into the net, remarkably making it a 4-4 game with 37.2 seconds left. “He caught me off guard . . . one I’ve got to have,” the goalie said.
At the intermission, “I just tried to settle down . . . you’ve got to have a short memory,” Andersen said. “Once something like this happens, you have to learn from it.
"[Game 6] is a new game. I don’t believe in momentum. We want to finish them off there.”
Andersen has been stung for nine goals in the last two games — five in the last two third periods.
“We just moved on,” Beleskey said. “Freddie’s been huge for us all playoffs. We had an unfortunate bounce and we needed to win that game for him. We did.
“That’s just the way we are. We have no time to dwell on anything heading into overtime.”
The prospect of overtime seemed unfathomable after one period, but the Blackhawks transformed after looking fatigued and almost disinterested, and cut the deficit to 3-2 in the second period.
Chicago’s Teuvo Teravainen ignited the rally by rushing up ice to squeeze a should’ve-been-saved shot under Andersen’s legs 1:11 into the second.
Teravainen then passed from behind the net to defenseman Brent Seabrook, who beat Andersen to his left with 24.8 seconds left in the period.
Anaheim seized a 2-0 lead just 5:42 into the game on goals by defenseman Cam Fowler and Kesler. Fowler found net on a blue-line shot and Kesler followed by deflecting in a Jakob Silfverberg shot that struck Crawford’s stick on the way in.
Beleskey began the night on the fourth line, separated from Kesler.
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau “was just switching it up a little to give them different looks,” Beleskey said. “We came out hot early. All the combos played well. Then we got back together.
“It was nice to get back.”
It took until the 17th minute of the first period for the Blackhawks to get their first shot on goal, a try by Toews that was stopped.
By then, the Ducks had extended their lead to 3-0 when defenseman Sami Vatanen took a faceoff win by center Ryan Getzlaf and fired it in to Crawford’s right, leaving the goalie visibly frustrated.
Getzlaf finished with two assists, and his 19th point of the postseason broke the team record he set in 2009.
Wednesday night, he and the Ducks pursue something greater — Anaheim’s third appearance in a Cup Final.
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire
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