CHICAGO — It is really hard to wear out Duncan Keith. He just keeps going and going and going.
Keith had three assists and saved a goal in the third period, and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 on Wednesday night to force a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals.
The Blackhawks’ biggest stars stepped up during a key stretch in the second, led by another terrific all-around performance for Keith. Shaking off the Ducks’ plan to wear down Chicago’s top four defencemen, Keith had his fourth multipoint game of the playoffs.
“He’s kind of a freak as far as his metabolism and conditioning level,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think the more he plays, the more efficient, the more he gets going.”
Andrew Shaw had two goals late in the third, sending the Ducks to their first regulation loss of the playoffs. Brandon Saad, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane also scored for Chicago, and Corey Crawford made 30 saves.
Next up for the NHL playoffs is a double dip of Game 7s to determine which teams will play for the Stanley Cup. The New York Rangers host the Tampa Bay Lightning in the East final Friday night, and the Blackhawks and Ducks meet in Anaheim on Saturday night.
It is only the second time in the expansion era since the 1967-68 playoffs that each of the conference finals required a Game 7. The other time was in 2000, when New Jersey went on to beat Dallas for the NHL title.
“I think the finality of it is what stands out,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I mean, one group is going to go home and one group’s going to go play for the Stanley Cup. There’s really not a lot you can leave on the table.”
The Ducks and Blackhawks each dropped a home Game 7 to Los Angeles last season. Anaheim blew a 3-2 series lead against the Kings in the second round, and the Blackhawks lost 5-4 in overtime in the West finals on a deflected shot from Los Angeles defenceman Alec Martinez.
“I remember the feeling after we lost that game,” Kane said. “We definitely don’t want that feeling again.”
Patrick Maroon and Clayton Stoner scored for the Ducks, and Frederik Andersen made 18 saves.
Anaheim caught a break when Jakob Silfverberg brushed up against Crawford’s glove on Stoner’s first goal of the playoffs at 1:57 of the third, trimming Chicago’s lead to 3-2.
There was no call on the play and Crawford threw up his hands in exasperation after Stoner’s big slap shot went into the net.
But Crawford quickly put the play behind him, hanging tough while the Ducks made a frantic push for the tying goal. He got some help from Keith when the two-time Norris Trophy winner swept a shot away from the goal line about 3 1/2 minutes into the period.
“It’s unbelievable,” Shaw said. “He’s one of those athletes who digs down and finds that extra step.”
Shaw finally got the Blackhawks some breathing room when he beat Andersen with a nifty backhander high into the net with 3:32 left. Andrew Desjardins made a nice hustle play to get the puck over to Shaw for his third playoff goal.
Shaw then added an empty-netter in the final minute as Chicago improved to 7-1 at home in the playoffs.
“I think we chased the game a little bit tonight and I think we let them dictate the second period,” Ducks centre Ryan Kesler said. “They scored three quick ones. It’s tough to come back from three goals. We gave it a shot there.”
Keith picked up his first assist in the second when he made a long pass ahead to Kane, who touched it to a streaking Saad. The rugged forward then skated in and beat Andersen for a 1-0 lead, sending a charge through the crowd of 22,089.
The team with the first goal has won each of the first six games.