CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane played together a lot when they were younger, but Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has used them on the same line only in times of need in recent seasons.
Facing elimination in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final certainly qualified as one of those times, and the reunion did not disappoint.
Defenseman Duncan Keith assisted on three goals, including two from the new-look top line of Toews, Kane and Brandon Saad, in less than four minutes to help the Chicago Blackhawks defeat the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 on Wednesday at United Center and force a winner-takes-all conclusion to this best-of-7 series.
Game 7 is Saturday at Honda Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
"They're very high-skilled players. They got great pace. They're very competitive. They're great leaders," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "The last game in the third period, they played some shifts there. They had some great looks together. That got us thinking about it.
"We were ready to try it. Down a game here, we tried it. Sometimes you go to the mindset of the game, we'll see what happens initially, but you're ready to go to it."
For the second consecutive season, the Blackhawks needed a Game 6 victory to force Game 7 in the Western Conference Final and delivered.
For the third consecutive season, Anaheim missed an opportunity to close out a Stanley Cup Playoff series in Game 6 when up 3-2. The Ducks did not fare well in Game 7 the past two times; the Detroit Red Wings defeated them in the opening round in 2013, and the Los Angeles Kings crushed them to close out the second round last season.
"If you want to prove people wrong, you've just got to go out and do it," Ducks forward Kyle Palmieri said. "Yeah, we blew 3-2 series leads the last two years, but no one is going remember that if we go out there on Saturday night and beat these guys and go play in the Stanley Cup Final. We need to get back to work and we'll start to do that tomorrow."
This was the fourth time in five Game 6s when trailing 3-2 in a series that this core group of Chicago players has forced a Game 7. But they are 1-2 in those decisive games, defeating the Red Wings in the second round in 2013 but losing to the Vancouver Canucks in the first round in 2011 and the Kings in the conference final last season.
Quenneville called the June 1, 2014, overtime loss to Los Angeles at United Center "the toughest loss of probably our lives."
"You think of that as the ultimate test for any player to see what you got, to see what you can bring in a high-pressure situation like that," Toews said. "I think that's the exciting thing. Again, we can resort to our experience in these situations and just feel confident. We're going to go work. Fate's on our side. We'll find a way to make things happen."
The Blackhawks took control of the game with a flurry of offense in the second period. For the sixth time in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Chicago scored three goals in a period, and these came in a span of 3:45.
Saad opened the scoring at 8:23 of the second. Keith sent a pass into the neutral zone to Kane. After Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin stepped up to cancel out Kane, Saad picked up the puck and raced past Hampus Lindholm to go in alone on net before slipping a shot through goaltender Frederik Andersen's legs for his fifth goal of the postseason.
"Those two players, they're so good by themselves, but when you put them together, they're a pretty dynamic duo there," Saad said of Kane and Toews. "I had fun playing with them tonight, and hopefully we can continue to have some success."
Marian Hossa made it 2-0 at 10:41. Keith had the puck in the left circle as the Ducks defense collapsed into a shell in front of Andersen. He faked a shot twice before sending a diagonal pass to Hossa, who one-timed it inside the right post for his third goal of the playoffs.
Kane made it 3-0 after another nice play by Keith. Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner tried to chip the puck out of the Anaheim zone, but Keith gloved it to the ice at the right point. He sent a short pass to Kane along the right wall. Kane made a brilliant move around Anaheim forward Matt Beleskey before scoring his 10th of the postseason at 12:08.
Anaheim got one goal back a little more than two minutes later. Chicago center Brad Richards went to the penalty box for hooking at 14:08, but he wasn't there long.
The Ducks won the ensuing faceoff, and Patrick Maroon deflected Cam Fowler's one-timed slap shot from the right point past Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford to cut the lead to 3-1 at 14:13 of the second. It was Maroon's seventh goal of the playoffs.
Stoner brought the Ducks within one early in the third period. Nate Thompson won a race for the puck into the right corner of the Chicago zone and peeled back to find Stoner across the ice at the left point for a slap shot. Jakob Silfverberg bumped Crawford's glove just before the puck arrived at the top of the crease, but Stoner's goal was allowed at 1:57 of the third despite the goaltender's protests.
Shaw scored an empty-net goal with 48.8 seconds left to ensure this series will go seven games.
"It's evenly matched," Shaw said. "This game doesn't mean anything for us if we don't win the next one. We got to get physically and mentally prepared for it. They're going to do the same. It's going to be another great game."
Crawford made 30 saves, and Andersen had 18.
There will be two days between games for the first time in this series, and that probably means an extra day for the Ducks to face questions about past playoff disappointments.
"Well, it's one game for the Stanley Cup [Final]," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I'm excited about it. I mean, I'd rather have done it in six. I think when you sit down and think that you've got one chance to go play for the Stanley Cup, and it's one game in your home building, with your fans, I got to believe that both teams are going to play their best game of the series."
|Brandon Saad (5) ASST: Patrick Kane (7), Duncan Keith (12)|
1 - 0 CHI
|Marian Hossa (3) ASST: Duncan Keith (13), Brad Richards (7)|
2 - 0 CHI
|Patrick Kane (10) ASST: Duncan Keith (14)|
3 - 0 CHI
|PPG - Patrick Maroon (7) ASST: Cam Fowler (7), Sami Vatanen (8)|
3 - 1 CHI
|Clayton Stoner (1) ASST: Nate Thompson (4), Jakob Silfverberg (13)|
3 - 2 CHI
|Andrew Shaw (3) ASST: Andrew Desjardins (1), Antoine Vermette (3)|
4 - 2 CHI
|EN - Andrew Shaw (4) ASST: Andrew Desjardins (2), Marcus Kruger (1)|
5 - 2 CHI
|Power Play %||15.7%||17.6%|
|% on Road||15.4%||19.5%|
|% at Home||16.1%||15.8%|
|Teuvo Teravainen Too many men/ice - bench|
|Corey Perry Hooking against Duncan Keith|
|Jiri Sekac Elbowing against Brent Seabrook|
|Brad Richards Hooking against Emerson Etem|
|Ryan Kesler Tripping against Corey Crawford|
|Andrew Desjardins Interference on goalkeeper against Frederik Andersen|