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Blackhawks' Keith takes hits, makes pivotal plays

NHL.com @NHL

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith doesn't express much emotion on the ice. But he certainly found a positive way to react to any anger he had for being hit hard by Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler in the second period of Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday.

Keith responded to being rocked by Kesler by assisting on three Blackhawks goals in a 3:45 span, and early in the third period he saved a goal by pulling a loose puck off the goal line to preserve the Blackhawks' 3-2 lead.

Chicago went on to win 5-2 and force Game 7 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"There's nights where you look at the score sheet and you see how great he can be, how pivotal, how much he means to our team, especially in these big games," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "But I think whether he's on the score sheet, whether he's making those plays, he's there every night making that difference no matter what."

Keith was tracking back for a puck in the Chicago end when Kesler hit him with a shoulder-to-shoulder check that sent Keith into the boards at 7:51 of the second period. Moments later, after the play came back into the Chicago end, Keith stood composed with the puck, controlling play until a passing lane opened and he was able to find teammate Patrick Kane at center ice. Kane chipped the puck ahead to Brandon Saad, who streaked in on Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen and scored at 8:23 of the second.

Later, with the Blackhawks cycling the puck in the Ducks' end, Keith got it at the top of the left circle. He faked a shot once, then twice, drawing the attention of all five Ducks skaters, three of whom were in the shooting lane. Keith calmly slid the puck to his right to Marian Hossa, who one-timed it past Andersen at 10:41.

And with the Ducks trying to clear the puck out of their zone, Keith leaped just inside the blue line to glove the puck and hold it in. He sent it ahead to Kane, who made a great 1-on-1 move to score at 12:08 and make it 3-0.

The Ducks rallied to make it a 3-2 game and had a power play early in the third when Keith came up big again. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, camped in front of the Blackhawks net, pushed the rebound of a Cam Fowler shot off Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford. The loose puck was rolling toward the goal line when Keith dug it out. The Blackhawks killed the penalty and went on to remain alive in the series.

In addition to his three assists, Keith played a game-high 28:35 and blocked four shots, second on the Blackhawks.

"He was unbelievable tonight, unbelievable in the second period," Kane said. "[He] made some great plays, great passes. And not only was he good offensively, he led the way defensively too. [It's] nothing we're not used to seeing from him."

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