#1- 2011: Blackhawks vs. Canucks
Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
The Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup the year previous, but after the Salary Cap shakeup of the 2010 off-season, it was only a shell of the team that stood standing, ready for their title defense. It took until the final day to make it into the Playoffs that year, but the Blackhawks did just that, drawing the President’s Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks for the third consecutive year.
In Game One, the Canucks flexed their muscle, and although the Blackhawks put up a fight, with 32 shots, they could not solve Roberto Luongo. Two Canucks goals by Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen, minutes apart in the first period, were all the Canucks needed to cruise to a 2-0 victory in the series opener at home.
It was much of the same story in Game Two, but the Canucks nearly let the Blackhawks back into the game on multiple occasions. Ben Smith‘s two-goal night gave the Blackhawks light, and though Chicago had a few close calls in the game’s final moments, the Canucks hung on to win Game Two against Chicago for the first time in the past three seasons.
The Blackhawks weren’t planning on going down 3-0 in the series after a Game Three loss at home, and a solid first period ended with the ‘Hawks up 1-0 on Duncan Keith’s goal. However, the teams traded goals in the second period, and were deadlocked at 2 goals each after two periods. Mikael Samuelsson‘s third-period goal was the only one in the final 20 minutes, and the Canucks put the Blackhawks on the ropes with a 3-2 Game Three victory.
The Blackhawks needed a spark to avoid a Canucks sweep in front of their home crowd in Game Four, and they definitely found it. Though the two teams would end the first period tied at one, the Blackhawks would explode for four goals in the second period, and two more in the early third period, putting the game far out of reach by the time Daniel Sedin stopped the Chicago run of six unanswered goals. Though they were far from being back in the series, a 7-2 Game Four victory gave Blackhawks’ fans just enough hope to soldier on into Vancouver.
After exploding for seven goals two nights earlier, many didn’t think the Blackhawks had enough left in the tank to win Game Five on the road. They were wrong. The Blackhawks dominated the Canucks from the opening puck drop, and Corey Crawford was even better than his previous game, finishing with his first career playoff shutout, as the Blackhawks shocked the Canucks with another five-goal win, this time, 5-0.
With their season on the line yet again at home, no one expected the Blackhawks to roll over in Game Six. The Canucks opened the scoring just two minutes into the first period, but the teams traded goals all night, ending with Michael Frolik recording the first penalty-shot goal in Blackhawks playoff history, tying the game. Though everyone expected the over-time magic to come from #19 or #88, it was 22-year old Ben Smith who scored the biggest goal in his NHL career, sending the series to Game Seven.
The Blackhawks went to Vancouver trying to become the fourth team in NHL history to come back from a 0-3 deficit in the playoffs, and they nearly got it done. Alexandre Burrows opened the scoring just 2:43 into Game Seven, and it stood as the only goal in the contest for the next 55 minutes. With Duncan Keith in the box for Holding, the Blackhawks were down to just minutes, and on a crucial penalty-kill. Not only did they keep the puck out of their own net, they put it in the other, as Jonathan Toews scored from on his stomach, tying the game with less than two minutes remaining.
The Blackhawks went to over-time in their first Game Seven since the 1995 Playoffs, but unfortunately, it ended in heartbreak. After a Chris Campoli turnover, Burrows struck the dagger into the hearts of Blackhawks’ fans, ending the come-back one goal short, with his over-time winning slap-shot that fluttered over Crawford’s shoulder.
Though the Blackhawks did not emerge victorious from this series, the memories of the near-comeback, Toews’ game-tying goal, and Smith’s over-time winner will live on as some of the greatest single-game moments in Blackhawks’ playoff history.
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