USATSI_8588218_154158418_lowresThe Chicago Blackhawks brought it all on Saturday night for Game Seven, clearing out the Anaheim Ducks by a final score of 5-3. They’ll face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Stanley Cup and that series will get underway on Wednesday night.

The Ducks continued their Game Seven struggles, while Chicago continued their winning ways when leading after two periods. Every time Anaheim seemed to generate some momentum, Chicago would respond with another goal.

The Blackhawks played a more composed, controlled game and got started early with two first period goals despite being outshot by the Ducks. Jonathan Toews opened the scoring just over two minutes in and scored again to make it 2-0 going into the middle frame.

Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa continued the dominance, putting the Blackhawks up 4-0 before Ryan Kesler finally scored one for Anaheim with just over a minute left in the second. It was not to be.

The third period saw a small sign of life for the Ducks, who were still outshooting the Blackhawks, as Corey Perry scored and made it 4-2. But less than two minutes later, Chicago was back on the board thanks to a Brent Seabrook power play goal. Anaheim’s Matt Beleskey would add a late one on the power play after Johnny Oduya shot the puck over the boards, but that was that.

The Ducks led the way in hits and shots, but they couldn’t rattle Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford enough to take the victory.

Still, it was a hard-fought series and one that showed the best players on both teams at their very best. It sounds cliché, but it was certainly true in this case. Patrick Kane, Toews, Hossa, and the impossibly good defenceman Duncan Keith proved their mettle and then some, while the Ducks saw great play from Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Kesler. Matt Beleskey also emerged as one to watch with a terrific scoring run for Anaheim.

“We never really stopped believing in ourselves,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. “We were hearing a lot of things about our team in the regular season. Seems like we put things back together at the right time and we’re back in the Finals with this group. We know what we have in this room, we believe in each other, we believe in the organization, and it really doesn’t matter what other people say.”

The Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup twice in the past five seasons and will hope for another against Tampa, who will be looking for their first Cup since 2004 when they knocked off the Calgary Flames in seven games. The Lightning finished the regular season with 108 points, six more than Chicago.

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