ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Frederik Andersen lunged forward and stretched out his stick, taking a desperate chance to stop Patrick Kane. The Chicago star’s shot somehow glanced off Andersen’s lumber and flew over a painfully open net.
Andersen kept the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference finals opener while his teammates got rolling. When they did, the Ducks streaked out to yet another early series lead.
Hampus Lindholm, Nate Thompson and Jakob Silfverberg each had a goal and an assist, and the Ducks beat the Blackhawks 4-1 in Game 1 on Sunday.
Andersen made 32 saves and Kyle Palmieri also scored as the Ducks opened their first conference finals in eight years by improving to 9-1 in these Stanley Cup playoffs. Although the Blackhawks clearly are a major step up in competition, the Ducks’ confidence grew with a strong all-around performance backed by brilliance from their imposing Danish goalie.
“I think everyone in the locker room knows we can beat this team,” said Andersen, who’s in his second NHL season. “It’s a good feeling that we showed it in Game 1. They’re going to come harder. We’ll have to play better in Game 2.”
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Anaheim.
Andersen had to be stellar under a heavy barrage of high-quality shots from the Blackhawks, who had won five straight postseason games heading into their third straight conference finals. Kane scored seven goals in the first two rounds, but could only shake his head on the bench after Andersen’s phenomenal stick save in the first period.
“He’s a battler, and you saw that on numerous saves he had tonight where it seemed like we had a good chance to score and he gets a leg or a stick on it,” Kane said. “We knew that was the scouting report on him. Just got to bear down a little bit more on those opportunities.”
Brad Richards scored late in the second period and Corey Crawford stopped 23 shots for Chicago, which hadn’t lost since April 23.
Both teams’ offensive stars were shut down in the franchises’ first postseason meeting, but the Ducks’ supporting cast took over the scoring, capped by Silfverberg’s empty-net goal with 1:18 left.
Andersen also made a handful of spectacular saves in the third when Chicago pressed after Thompson made it 3-1 with 7:55 to play in a sequence created by speedy Andrew Cogliano.
“The way we were all able to contribute and help out definitely bodes well for our team,” Thompson said. “We’ve always had good depth. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been successful here.”
These powerhouse teams both entered the series with prolonged momentum and plenty of rest: The Blackhawks never trailed in their second-round series sweep of Minnesota while reaching their third straight conference finals, while Anaheim steamrolled through the Pacific Division bracket with just one overtime defeat. The Blackhawks had the last 10 days off, and the Ducks had a full week off after disposing of Calgary in five games.
“They played a patient game,” Chicago forward Brandon Saad said of the Ducks. “We came out and … had a pretty good start and felt good about ourselves, but throughout the second and third period it got progressively worse, and they took advantage.”
The clubs matched strengths from the opening minutes, with Ducks center Ryan Kesler chasing Chicago captain Jonathan Toews in a continuation of their long-running rivalry.
Chicago’s only injury problem was magnified: With Michal Rozsival out for the season with a broken ankle, defenseman David Rundblad made his playoff debut — and he was on the ice for the Ducks’ first two goals.
Anaheim scored midway through the first period when Silfverberg made a sharp pass to Lindholm, and the Swedish defenseman put a big shot through traffic for his second goal of the postseason.
Chicago controlled long stretches of early play with its speed, but Andersen made 16 saves — none prettier than that diving stick deflection on Kane.
“We didn’t play so good in the first, but I thought the rest of the game, we were dominant,” Kesler said. “Took it to them.”
Palmieri made it 2-0 early in the second with his first goal of the postseason, converting a pass from Thompson and sliding through the crease on his back in celebration. Rundblad and Johnny Oduya both failed to clear the puck before the decisive sequence.
Richards finally broke through in the final minute of the second, forcing a turnover by Francois Beauchemin and putting a fierce shot under Andersen’s arm for his second postseason goal.
Honda Center employees worked all night to prepare for the unusually early start time. Kanye West headlined a show in the building Saturday night, and arena staffers finished grooming the ice three hours before warmups.
NOTES: Rookie Jiri Sekac made his playoff debut for the Ducks, skating on their fourth line. The speedy, skillful Czech wing replaced Tim Jackman to match up with the Blackhawks’ strengths. … The Ducks have outscored their opponents 18-3 in the third period during this postseason. … Brent Seabrook played in his 100th postseason game. Chicago had eight players on the ice with at least 100 games of playoff experience, while Anaheim has none.
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