The Anaheim Ducks coughed up two late goals against the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night to force overtime, but Matt Beleskey played the role of hero as the Ducks won a 5-4 thriller in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final.
The victory moves the Ducks to within one game of their first Stanley Cup Final since 2007.
The Ducks may have had to deal with a tough overtime loss in Game 4, but there was no carryover effect as they positively dominated the entire first period. They got on the board early in the frame as Nate Thompson made a great play on the forecheck behind the net, and after Cam Fowler pinched in from the blue line, he hammered a slap shot past Corey Crawford to give Anaheim a 1-0 lead.
Just 32 seconds later, the Ducks scored again. Jakob Silfverberg got the play started as he pinched in from the blue line and fired a shot toward the net, and Ryan Kesler got his stick blade on the puck. It ended up bouncing up off the ice and skipped past Crawford to make it a 2-0 game.
The Blackhawks continued to struggle on offense, going the first 14 minutes of the game without a shot on goal, and the Ducks took advantage as they scored again. Off a face-off win, Sami Vatanen came in toward the net and hammered a slap shot off the inside of the post and into the cage as Anaheim secured a huge 3-0 lead.
The Hawks did manage a few shots on goal late in the frame, but they were unable to score. Jonathan Toews had the best chance of the bunch as he collected a loose puck in front, but Frederik Andersen aced his first test as he made the save and kept his team in front after 20 minutes of play.
Unlike the first period of the game, the Blackhawks got off to a hot start in the second period and scored just over a minute into the period. Teuvo Teravainen made his presence felt in the game as he cut in across the blue line, skated across the slot, and ripped a shot past Andersen to get the Hawks on the board.
Each team got a power play as the period continued, but neither side could convert. The Blackhawks once again found themselves held out to the perimeter of the ice as they couldn’t get anything across the zone, and the Ducks had similar issues as the Hawks’ aggressive forecheck prevented them from cycling the puck to the blue line.
Late in the period, the Blackhawks looked as though they were going to head into the intermission down two goals, but Brent Seabrook had other ideas. Teravainen made a great play behind the net to buy himself a second to survey the ice, and he fired a pass across to the pinching Seabrook, who beat Andersen and made it a 3-2 game with one period to go.
The Blackhawks blew an early power play in the third period, and the miscues ended up costing them as the Ducks scored a critical insurance goal with about five and a half minutes to take a 4-2 lead. After Patrick Sharp turned the puck over at the blue line, Patrick Maroon got a cross-ice pass past a diving Niklas Hjalmarsson and flipped the shot home.
Despite the long odds, the Blackhawks started a comeback with about two minutes remaining. After a lengthy possession, Marian Hossa fired a pass to Jonathan Toews in the slot and the captain blasted a shot off the crossbar and into the net, making it a 4-3 game.
With a little over 30 seconds to go, the Blackhawks improbably tied it up. Toews got the puck down at the goal line, and he fired a shot toward the net. Somehow, the puck bounced off of Andersen’s left skate and slid over the line, and in an instant the Blackhawks made it a 4-4 game and forced the third overtime of the series.
After a failed dump-in attempt by Bryan Bickell, the Ducks got a 2-on-1 rush the other way and capitalized less than a minute into overtime. Ryan Kesler's shot was stopped by Corey Crawford, but Beleskey collected the rebound and tossed it into the empty net to give the Ducks a 5-4 victory.
The Ducks will have a chance to punch their ticket into the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night when the series shifts to Chicago. Puck drop is scheduled for 5 p.m. local time.