17 seconds? More like 3.9 seconds!
Given the way the game started tonight, practically no one could have predicted the way it would end. Coach Quenneville gave goalie Corey Crawford the night off after yesterday’s win against the Minnesota Wild, leaving Antti Raanta to mind the net for the Chicago Blackhawks in their visit to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Columbus scored right off the bat with a Derek MacKenzie wrist shot barely 90 seconds into the game. The Hawks looked sluggish for most of the first period, getting a mere 2 shots on goal compared to Columbus’ 8, but Jeremy Morin finally scored the equalizer with just under 3 minutes left in the period.
The second period saw far more action, if also some of the same silly mistakes. This time, Columbus only needed 36 seconds to regain the lead. And the Hawks just weren’t having any of it. After Bryan Bickell fought Jared Boll, they charged back with the next two goals: a beautiful power play tally (yes, you read that right: Hawks finally managed to convert on PP!) by none other than Patrick Sharp at 4:14, and later, a rocket launched by Marian Hossa off a sweet pass from Kris Versteeg.
But the Blue Jackets wouldn’t go away so easily, desperate as they are to maintain playoff positioning: they stand only one point ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Not long after Hossa’s goal, Nick Leddy was called for slashing. His resulting penalty was the only one of the night that the Hawks couldn’t kill: a centering pass by Artem Anisimov went off the stick of Niklas Hjalmarsson and past Raanta to tie the game 3-3.
In the final frame, the two teams kept closer tabs on each other and held off most scoring chances while being careful not to draw any further penalties. As the clock wound down, it seemed to be a given that the Hawks would go into overtime for the second night in a row, and I’m sure that more than one fan left to go for another beer or quick bathroom break.
For those who love exciting, out-of-nowhere endings to hockey games, that would prove to be an ill-advised move. Duncan Keith got things going with an attempted shot on goal from the blue line with 7 seconds remaining, which caused goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to slip and fall on his backside as he made the initial save but couldn’t quiet the rebound. Ben Smith and Peter Regin pounced, and with just under four seconds to go, Smith gave the Hawks the lead once again. Columbus won the final faceoff, but it was of little use as the Hawks kept the lead and ultimately won 4-3, making this the 13th consecutive time that the Hawks have beaten the Blue Jackets.
The Hawks are now just one point behind the Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division; reclaiming home ice is still within reach. The next game will be on Sunday, April 6 at the United Center, when the Hawks will face the St. Louis Blues for the fifth and final time of the regular season. It will be a tall order for a Kane and Toews-less team to eke out a win, but as long as the Hawks defense can shut down the likes of T.J. Oshie and Co., and put pucks on net early and often, the boys stand a good chance of following up a 3-game losing streak with a 3-game win streak. A win would make a tremendous impact on the team from a confidence aspect, as well as gaining momentum going into the playoffs.