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Blackhawks' best players took over Game 7

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

ANAHEIM -- After six games of dramatic comebacks, the Chicago Blackhawks' talent made sure Game 7 of the Western Conference Final didn't need another one at Honda Center on Saturday.

Led by captain Jonathan Toews' two goals, scored in succession in the first period, the Blackhawks' reached the 2015 Stanley Cup Final with a 5-3 victory against the Anaheim Ducks that decided the best-of-7 series.

"I think you definitely feed off the confidence that it gives you," said Toews, who started the game with Patrick Kane on his right wing for the first time in the series. "You want to consider yourself that type of player at the end of the day. But it helps when you're alongside guys that have those same intangibles."

Aside from Toews again rising to occasion with a special game, the Blackhawks got a goal each from forward Brandon Saad, right wing Marian Hossa and defenseman Brent Seabrook.

They got three assists from Kane, two from defenseman Duncan Keith, and two from center Brad Richards, who played as Hossa's right wing in place of Kane.

"They are world-class players," Richards said of Toews and Kane. "It's not like … I mean, I got to play with Marian Hossa instead [of Kane]. For me, it wasn't a disappointing move. That's what so great about this team. If it helps and changes the balance … [Hossa] scored a couple big goals and [the top line] scored big goals. We're all pulling in the same direction here, so whatever works."

The Blackhawks will try to win their third Stanley Cup in six seasons starting with Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Toews scored off the rebound of a well-placed shot by defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to make it 1-0 2:23 into the game. It was 2-0 at 11:55 after Toews scored Chicago's first of two power-play goals.

"It almost seems like every big game, he comes up big," Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford said. "He did it again for us tonight. At this point in the season, you need your top players to do that, and our top guys have been doing that for us."

Toews and the reconfigured top line set the tone, but Chicago's stars were just getting started.

Saad made it 3-0 at 1:18 of the second by tapping home a backdoor feed from Kane, and Hossa made it 4-0 at 13:45 with a combination of skill and hustle to cap a rush.

After feathering a pass to Richards for a scoring chance from the front of the net, Hossa charged hard for the rebound and his right skate pushed the puck into the net. It was reviewed but stood as a goal because it was ruled he didn't make a distinct kicking motion to direct the puck into the net.

The skill level was high and the drive was impressive.

"I don't know if we went in the other direction, but I do believe the Blackhawks got better," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They came out and got two goals in the first how many minutes? They're a tough team to catch up from."

Much of the series, that's what the Blackhawks thought of the Ducks. Chicago never led the series until winning Game 7.

"Down a game a couple times in the series and we fought back," Kane said. "It speaks volumes about the character in this room and the leadership, starting with the captain. You get two goals right away. It's pretty remarkable how [Toews] shows up in these games and seems to come through time after time. We have great leadership from [Toews] to [Patrick Sharp] to [Keith] ... and we kind of follow their lead and try to do the best we can."

Keith said the same of Toews and Kane, who are already earning their pending large salary hikes before their identical contract extensions begin next season.

"They have that ability to rise to the occasion and just find a way no matter what," Keith said. "Whether it's just that belief, but always just knowing, you know, they're going to get it done, they're going to find a way ... I think that rubs off on a lot of guys."

Author: Brian Hedger | Correspondent

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