CHICAGO (AP) — Anaheim stars Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler are drawing a lot of attention in the Western Conference finals. When the Ducks’ defensemen join the attack, it presents a big problem for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Ducks got four points from their defensemen in Monday night’s 5-4 overtime win that moved them within one victory of the Stanley Cup finals. It was their best total since their defensemen accounted for six points in a 6-1 victory over Calgary in Game 1 of their second-round series on April 30, according to STATS.
“The main thing that we’ve had throughout the playoffs is we’ve had scoring from all four lines and we’ve also had people on the back end who can pitch in every once in a while,” defenseman Cam Fowler said Tuesday before the Ducks departed Southern California for Game 6 in Chicago.
“I think it puts more pressure on other teams defensively when they know there’s not just going to be three forwards they have to worry about; they have to worry about the second wave coming in, which might be a fourth defenseman. That changes things a little bit.”
Fowler and Sami Vatanen scored during Anaheim’s fast start in Game 5. Vatanen also had an assist on Patrick Maroon’s goal in the third. Anaheim leads the NHL with 42 points from defensemen in 14 playoff games, compared to 31 for Chicago in 15 games, according to STATS.
“It’s been really essential. But it’s happened all year,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “No one knew about it all year because nobody knew who Sami Vatanen or Hampus Lindholm were. They had an inkling of who Cam Fowler was. None of these guys were really on the radar as far offensive defensemen.
“But they’re good puck-moving guys and they create offense. If you look at their numbers, they’re all up there. Five out of the six, anyway, are always up there in the scoring for defensemen.”
The performance in Game 5 ran their total for the series to 13 points. If Anaheim’s defensemen fill up the scoresheet again on Wednesday night, that could spell the end for Chicago. But the seasoned Blackhawks are promising a fight to the finish.
“There’s a lot of history here that we’ve collected over seven years. A lot of positive things,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think we all came out of last night’s game with an anger and a real sour taste in our mouth. Sometimes that can be better than a history lesson.”
The Blackhawks trailed the Kings 3-1 in the Western Conference finals a year ago, and came all the way back to force a memorable Game 7 that ended on a deflected overtime goal by Los Angeles defenseman Alec Martinez. Chicago rallied from a 3-1 deficit against Detroit on its way to the 2013 Stanley Cup title.
“It’s something we know we’ve done before,” forward Brandon Saad said. “When we’re in tight situations like this, we have a veteran group that has been through it and we know how to win games. We got to take care of tomorrow.”
While the series has included three overtime games and alternating victories for each side, a big key on Wednesday night could be the start. The team that scored first has won each of the first five games.
The Ducks outscored the Blackhawks 3-0 in a dominant first period in Game 5. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews forced overtime with a pair of dramatic goals in the final two minutes of regulation, but Matt Beleskey got the win for Anaheim with his seventh goal of the playoffs just 45 seconds into the extra session.
The Blackhawks felt they had the Ducks on the run at the end of regulation, but overtime was over before they were able to get another crack at Frederik Andersen in a shaky stretch for the young goaltender.
“It seemed like, I don’t know what it was, but like we were sleeping there at the start,” Saad said. “Their goals piled on. Mistake after mistake. They capitalized on it. That’s what a good team is going to do. We know we got to start better tomorrow.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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