ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks dealt with Game 7 pressure in the same way they’ve handled just about everything during their incredible seven-year playoff run.
Like champions. And after ending a remarkable Western Conference finals with a blowout victory, the Blackhawks get another chance to raise the Stanley Cup.
Toews scored two goals in the opening minutes, Corey Crawford made 35 saves and Chicago roared into the Stanley Cup Finals with a 5-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night.
Brandon Saad, Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook also scored for the Blackhawks, who will play for their third NHL championship in six seasons when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning beginning Wednesday night in Florida.
After six games of tense hockey in an extraordinary series, Game 7 was an incongruous rout. Toews was responsible for it, burnishing his reputation for big-game brilliance with a rebound goal just 2:23 in and another power-play score before 12 minutes elapsed.
“There was no easy games,” Toews said. “There was nothing given to us. There was no moments in this series were there any lulls, where we felt Anaheim maybe didn’t play their best hockey and we got away with it. We felt like we had to earn everything against that team. That was an incredible test for both teams.”
Anaheim lost a Game 7 at home for the third straight season. The Ducks blew a 3-2 series lead each time, compounding the heartbreak for a talented team that hasn’t developed the post-season poise possessed by Chicago and other champions.
“We took another step this year, going a round farther, but ultimately that Game 7 we’ve got to be able to finish,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “They played better than us tonight. I’m not telling you they are a better team than us. We didn’t do enough to win.”
The Blackhawks led 4-0 before Ryan Kesler scored late in the second period for the Ducks. Corey Perry scored for Anaheim with 8:24 to play, but Seabrook scored on a power play shortly afterward.
Patrick Kane had three assists for Chicago, which won three of the series’ final four games to seize another Western Conference title — although the Blackhawks refused to touch the Campbell Bowl during an awkward postgame ceremony punctuated by fans throwing orange towels on the ice.
The Blackhawks have defied conventional NHL parity to reach three Stanley Cup Finals and five conference finals in a seven-year stretch under coach Joel Quenneville. That’s because their stars are unmatched: From Toews and Kane to Seabrook and Duncan Keith, nobody knows how to win like Chicago.
They bounced back this season after their Game 7 loss to the Kings in last spring’s conference finals. Chicago outlasted Nashville and swept Minnesota before outlasting Anaheim in the franchises’ first playoff meeting.