Video: Ducks hold off Blackhawks in Game 3 to take series lead

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Patrick Kane had the puck on his stick, only seconds left in regulation, with a chance to send Game 3 to overtime. He missed, just barely, his shot sliding off the outside of the post.

And from there, the Anaheim Ducks were able to hold off the Chicago Blackhawks to take Thursday’s game by a final score of 2-1, which now also happens to be Anaheim’s lead in this Western Conference Final.

Sorry, no marathon overtime.

Simon Despres had never scored a Stanley Cup playoff goal before Thursday. His slap shot blast that beat Corey Crawford in the final minute of the second period stood as the winner. Talk about perfect timing.

The Blackhawks had their chances, but couldn’t take advantage.

They had five power play opportunities and were unsuccessful with each and every one of them. They are now 2-for-13 in the series. Their only goals with the advantage were in Game 2.

Chicago’s top players are also struggling to produce offensively so far in this series.

Kane did score late in the opening period for his first goal and point of this series. Jonathan Toews has only one point — an assist in Game 2. Marian Hossa has only one point. Patrick Sharp doesn’t have a point in four games.

It’s something to keep an eye on for Game 4 on Saturday.

Video: Maroon silences Chicago crowd with opening goal, Kane responds for Blackhawks

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Patrick Maroon scored only nine goals in the regular season for the Anaheim Ducks. He is now credited with five in these playoffs, his latest opening the scoring against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final on Thursday.

Maroon’s deflection goal — Corey Perry was also in front, screening Corey Crawford — gave the visiting Ducks a 1-0 lead, briefly silencing the Chicago crowd.

With less than a minute remaining in the first period, Patrick Kane responded for the Blackhawks, deploying that always dangerous backhand shot of his.

Showtime’ struck again, this time beating Frederik Andersen to tie the game at one goal apiece.

For Kane, that counts as his first goal and point of this series.

Versteeg ‘wants to play in the worst way’

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A healthy scratch since the first round, Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg has at least been impressing his coach in practice.

“He’s had a great week of practicing,” Joel Quenneville said today. “He’s not happy. He wants to play in the worst way. Puts himself as a candidate to get in the lineup. We’ve had some decisions along the way. Last game we could have inserted him. We’ll see. I like his approach. I told him we expect him in this series.”

Quenneville would not say if there would lineup changes tonight, as the Western Conference Final shifts back to Chicago after the Ducks and Blackhawks split the first two games in Anaheim.

Versteeg was replaced by Teuvo Teravainen in Game 1 of the Minnesota series, and he hasn’t gotten back into the lineup since.

The Chicago Sun-Times wonders if Versteeg could be in line to replace Bryan Bickell, who’s failed to score in 12 playoff games.

Of course, that would require taking a big body (223 pounds) out of the lineup, against a big, physical team in the Ducks. Versteeg is listed as the Blackhawks’ lightest player, at 176 pounds. Which is to say, swapping in Versteeg and playing him with Bickell’s current linemates, Patrick Kane and Brad Richards, may be seen as a risk versus a team like Anaheim.

“It’s never easy when you’re not in,” Versteeg told the Sun-Times. “You always want to be in and competing and helping the team out whatever way you can. But you know what, you’ve just got to come and be the best teammate you can be, regardless of whatever the situation is. Hopefully when you get your call, you’re ready to go.” 

Related: Versteeg misses Kane

In case you haven’t noticed, the NHL is a young man’s game

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Just for the sake of the discussion — and since everyone’s talking about Tyler Johnson today — here are all the players who have scored at least five goals in these playoffs:

Johnson (11), Corey Perry (7), Patrick Kane (7), Nikita Kucherov (6), Chris Kreider (6), Vladimir Tarasenko (6), Alex Killorn (6), Derek Stepan (5), Alex Ovechkin (5), Derick Brassard (5), Evgeny Kuznetsov (5), Max Pacioretty (5), Matt Beleskey (5), and Colin Wilson (5).

That’s 14 players. Can you pick out the oldest?

The answer is Anaheim’s Perry, who turned 30 on Saturday. Only slightly younger than Perry, Ovechkin will turn 30 in September.

Otherwise, it’s all players who are comfortably in their 20s, their legs still full of burst, their bodies not yet worn down by the grind of taking hundreds of pucks hard to the net, and all the punishment that goes with scoring goals in today’s NHL.

This isn’t to say that once a goal-scorer turns 30 he should be put out to pasture, like the theory about running backs in the NFL. Marian Gaborik, Justin Williams, and Martin St. Louis all had productive postseasons last year. This year is perhaps an extreme case.

But it does show the importance of youth, and how quickly a player — especially a forward — can go from getting drafted to making a significant impact.

True, patience is required when developing prospects. You don’t want to rush them. There’s nothing wrong with learning the game in the AHL. But at the same time, there has to be a sense of urgency in getting prospects ready for the NHL so they can enjoy as many productive seasons as possible, before their peak years (at a relatively low cap hit) are over.

Hence, all the talk surrounding 20-year-old Jonathan Drouin. While it’s not like the Lightning should be hitting the panic button that he hasn’t yet gained the trust of his coach, it’s not unfair to wonder if he’s fallen a bit behind in his development.

In a related story, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan knows “the next three or four years is the window” in Washington. Because, where will Ovechkin’s game be after that? Where will Nicklas Backstrom’s? The Caps have an opportunity over the next few years to get production from both their veterans and their youth. That’s the sweet spot every GM aims for. And those sweet spots don’t last long.

Freddie’s ready: Ducks beat Blackhawks in Game 1

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Some consider Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen a “question mark” as the team finally tries to make good on regular-season dominance. In Game 1 of the 2015 Western Conference Final, Andersen was instead the difference-maker.

Chicago carried the play for the first two periods on Sunday, generating a 25-15 shot advantage through the first 40 minutes of the contest.

Andersen was on top of the action, making 32 saves and only allowing a Brad Richards goal off a turnover all night.

He made some big saves, including this sensational stick stop on Patrick Kane:

Anaheim took a 2-1 lead into the final frame, and people made mention of how great the Ducks are at closing out games:

That certainly held true on Sunday (you can bump that playoff stat to 4-1 now), as the Ducks survived two straight penalty calls, generated a 12-8 shot edge and scored two tallies to end any threat of a Blackhawks comeback.

It’s getting tougher and tougher to doubt the Ducks as genuine contenders, as they now have a 1-0 series lead and a 9-1 record in this postseason.

They also proved that they can beat Chicago at the Duck Pond:

The Blackhawks have to be frustrated to see some dominant play go to waste, although the biggest headache might be their defensive imbalance. Michal Rozsival’s absence is being felt, as David Rundblad had a rough game and Kimmo Timonen barely played (5:15 TOI).

Still, just about every team sees some flaws in the salary cap era. It’s just one game, and the Blackhawks have been through just about everything over the last several years.