(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks hope to rebound from their first home loss of the postseason on Saturday when they host the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 from the United Center.
After splitting the first two games of this best-of-seven set in Anaheim, the Blackhawks were handed a 2-1 setback Thursday night in the Windy City. The loss came two days after Chicago gutted out a 3-2 triple-overtime victory to even the series at one game apiece.
Chicago entered Game 3 with a 5-0 mark at United Center this spring. Prior to Thursday, the Blackhawks were 14-2 on Madison Street dating back to Game 5 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, which they won in six games over Boston for their second championship in four seasons. All three of the Blackhawks' home losses since that setback to the Bruins have come to teams based in southern California. Chicago dropped two home games against Los Angeles in last spring's conference finals, including a 5-4 OT loss in Game 7.
Anaheim improved to 10-2 overall in these playoffs and 4-1 on the road.
The Ducks are hoping to earn another win in Chi-town on Saturday to set up a clinching scenario when the clubs meet in Anaheim on Monday. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, will aim to even the series tonight and ensure they get to play one more game on home ice.
Frederik Andersen came up big for the Ducks in Game 3, stopping 27-of-28 shots to help his club hold on for the close victory. Simon Despres provided the game-winning goal, potting his first career playoff marker with 54.2 seconds left in the second period.
The score was tied at 1-1 when Despres beat Corey Crawford with a one-timer from the right circle. It was the defenseman's first goal in 18 career playoff games and only his second tally since being traded from Pittsburgh to Anaheim in exchange for Ben Lovejoy on March 2.
"It was definitely a big one to score a game-winning goal in the third round against Chicago," said the 23-year-old blueliner.
Patrick Maroon netted the other goal and Ryan Getzlaf added assists on both scores for the Ducks, who are in the conference finals for the first time since their Stanley Cup-winning season of 2007. Getzlaf is leading the league with 14 assists this spring.
Patrick Kane produced the sole offense for the Blackhawks, while Crawford made 25 stops in the setback.
Crawford was out of position on the game-winning shot, as he didn't seem to see Getzlaf pass it to Despres from the high slot. According to the goaltender, heavy traffic in front of the crease hindered his view all game long.
"I got bumped the whole game. I've got to find a way to not get caught up, I guess," said Crawford.
Andersen, meanwhile, has been sensational throughout this series, stopping 112-of-117 shots over three games for a save percentage of .957.
On Thursday, the Danish netminder also backed a strong penalty killing effort which led to Chicago going 0-for-5 on the power play. The Blackhawks only have two goals on 13 opportunities with the man advantage in the series.
"We were doing all the little things," said Ducks forward Nate Thompson of the team's penalty kill. "The No. 1 penalty killer was Freddie. He made some big saves, but we all had good sticks in the lane. We were blocking shots and weren't giving them free entries."
Chicago failed to capitalize on Getzlaf's high-sticking call just over five minutes into the third, generating little puck motion. The hosts also couldn't solve Andersen with expanded room during a 4-on-4 through the period's midway point.
Crawford was eventually pulled for an extra attacker with two minutes to go, though the Blackhawks found little space to operate in their own zone.
Marian Hossa put his first shot inside a minute remaining into Andersen's chest and his point blast later in the shift was gloved down by Andersen while falling backwards with 35.4 to play.
Despres then saved a potential game-prolonging chance from Kane in the final 10 seconds by laying his stick across to disrupt the shot enough and force it out of harm's way.
"It just came down to us not getting a bounce around the net," said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.
Kane scored Chicago's only goal with a little under a minute left in the first period, knotting the score at 1-1. It was the star winger's 45th career playoff goal, tying Kane with Steve Larmer for fourth on the club's all-time list. Only Stan Mikita (59), Denis Savard (61) and Bobby Hull (62) have scored more for Chicago in the postseason.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville made some changes up front for Game 3, scratching forwards Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen in favor of Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom. Quenneville said he made the switch to "get fresh legs in there" following the marathon triple-OT game on Tuesday. It's possible either Teravainen or Vermette, or both, could be back in the lineup tonight.
This is the first-ever postseason series between the Blackhawks and Ducks.