(SportsNetwork.com) - An Eastern Conference champion was crowned in a Game 7 battle on Friday night. Now, it's the West's turn.
The Anaheim Ducks will host a decisive Game 7 on Saturday when the Chicago Blackhawks visit the Honda Center for the conclusion of a highly entertaining Western Conference final.
The Blackhawks faced a must-win situation Wednesday in Chicago and came up with a 5-2 victory to push this best-of-seven set to the limit. It was only the second game of the series to be decided by more than one goal, with the other instance coming in Anaheim's 4-1 home triumph in Game 1.
Anaheim and Chicago have played three overtime games in this series. The Blackhawks won the first two, taking Game 2 in triple-OT before winning Game 4 in the second extra period. The Ducks rebounded with a 5-4 OT victory in Game 5 before the Blackhawks answered with Wednesday's win to tie the series.
Chicago's recent Game 7 history would suggest these teams have a good chance of playing more than 60 minutes on Saturday. Each of the Blackhawks' last three Game 7s have gone beyond regulation. Chicago is 1-2 over those contests, with the club's most recent Game 7 coming in a 5-4 setback to visiting Los Angeles last spring in the conference finals.
"That was the toughest loss of our lives," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said of last year's setback to the Kings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks are 6-6 all-time in Game 7s, while Anaheim is 2-4. The Ducks' last Game 7 also came last season against L.A., which slammed Anaheim, 6-2, to take a second round series.
The winner of tonight's contest will face Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup Finals after the Lightning recorded a 2-0 win over the New York Rangers on Friday. This will mark the first time since 2000 (Devils/Stars) that both Cup Final entrants won in Game 7s.
The Cup Finals are scheduled to begin Wednesday night. If Chicago wins the West, it will visit the Lightning for Game 1. If the Ducks take tonight's Game 7, the Cup Finals will begin in Anaheim.
Andrew Shaw scored the final two goals of Game 6, helping Chicago stave off elimination with the 5-2 victory.
The Blackhawks grabbed a 3-0 lead with three straight goals over a span of 3 minutes, 45 seconds midway through the second period. Anaheim, however, cut the deficit to 3-2 thanks to Patrick Maroon's power-play goal with 5:47 left in the second and Clayton Stoner's marker less than two minutes into the third period.
Shaw gave Chicago some breathing room by scoring with 3:32 left in the third and added an empty-netter with 49 seconds left.
Brandon Saad, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane also lit the lamp for the Blackhawks during their second-period flurry. Duncan Keith posted three second-period assists and Andrew Desjardins drew helpers on both Shaw markers.
Corey Crawford came up with 30 saves. Crawford is 1-2 with a 2.47 goals against average in three career Game 7s.
Frederik Andersen stopped just 18 shots in defeat on Wednesday and tonight will mark his first Game 7 start.
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau hasn't experienced a great deal of success in Game 7s throughout his career, recording a 1-5 mark in this situation. His lone win in a Game 7 came with the Washington Capitals when they defeated the New York Rangers in 2009.
"You've got one chance to go play for the Stanley Cup. It's one game in your building with your fans," noted Boudreau.
The Game 6 loss marked the first time the Ducks lost in regulation during these playoffs.
One big factor Anaheim has going in its favor tonight is a 7-1 record on home ice this spring. The lone loss came in the marathon Game 2 battle against Chicago.
Chicago is 4-4 as the visiting club in the 2015 playoffs.
The Blackhawks hope the presence of Game 7 good-luck charm Brad Richards can help them pick up the road victory tonight. Richards, who is in his first season with Chicago, has never lost in this situation, winning all seven Game 7s he's played in.
On the other hand, fellow Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa is just 2-6 in eight Game 7 appearances.