The Chicago Blackhawks, under coach Joel Quenneville, have a thing for jumping out to early leads. So it can be a little surprising when they suffer a large first-period setback (the first game of the 2015 playoffs). But we really shouldn’t lose hope with these guys (like many did in the 2015 playoffs), and this game in our countdown of the most memorable playoff wins under Q displayed that.
As we’ve touched on before, beating Vancouver in any game — but especially a playoff game — was pretty close to the top emotional high for a single-game result around 2009 and 2010. Beating the Canucks after spotting them two early goals on the road, however, is just schadenfreude. Who doesn’t like a little now and again?
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 50: 2010 Western Conference semifinals, Game 2
Chicago Blackhawks 4, Vancouver Canucks 2
You know what I find more frustrating than anything to see the Blackhawks on the wrong end of? Dirty goals. Maybe it’s because we often wonder why the Blackhawks haven’t tallied more dirty goals in recent years. But when the opponent just gets in the crease and hammers away at a puck until it gets past your goaltender, it really sucks.
It sucks even more when Ryan Kesler is the one hammering away. But that’s how this entry on the countdown list starts, so try not to read this while eating.
Da Windy City
The first goal-scoring play of the evening started with a Kevin Bieksa slapper from the point, which was knocked down in traffic. The puck trickled to Kesler, who spun around and fired right at Antti Niemi’s breadbasket. Niemi couldn’t settle the puck, and Blackhawks defenders couldn’t clear the crease, allowing Mason Raymond to roof a shot over Nemo’s right shoulder and into the twine just 1:20 into the contest.
Though Chicago would eventually fall behind 2-0 in this one, Niemi needed to be huge in between Vancouver’s goals. Just moments after Raymond’s strike, Henrik and Daniel Sedin created a pretty great scoring bid for the Canucks. Henrik carried the puck into the offensive zone and stopped just over the blue line, hitting his brother with a nice pass. Bieksa was up on the play and left all alone on Niemi’s doorstep, and Daniel found him with a pass.
Now, if a non-defenseman had this scoring chance, Vancouver probably goes up 2-0 right here. But Bieksa just took too long on his first attempt, allowing Niemi to move right to left for a pad save. Then, Bieksa took the rebound and missed a giant amount of space above the butterflied Niemi, hitting the post with his next shot. Henrik, behind the play, raises his hands in celebration, but play would move on.
Not the first time a Canuck has been disappointed. And certainly not the last. (Screenshot from YouTube)
But Vancouver received a golden opportunity to go up by multiple goals not too long after Bieksa’s failed attempt. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook committed back-to-back delay of game penalties just 30 seconds apart early in the first. While that’s actually kind of impressive, it put the Blackhawks in a bad spot, and the Canucks would capitalize.
Henrik would wind up with the puck down low to Niemi’s left. He waited out three block-attempting Blackhawks and found Mikael Samuelsson on the opposite doorstep for an easy slam-home shot and a 2-0 Vancouver lead just 5:02 into the game.
So now the Blackhawks woke up, right? Kind of.
Seabrook would atone for his penalty about three minutes later after Kris Versteeg fed Dave Bolland below the goal line. Bolland threw the puck in front of Roberto Luongo for Andrew Ladd, but he was met by a host of Vancouver defenders. Fortunately for the Blackhawks, the puck bounced out to Seabrook at Luongo’s right, and the goaltender couldn’t move quickly enough to stifle the quasi-rebound bid, cutting Vancouver’s lead to one.
Chicago’s push continued after the goal, but it’d be awhile before they scored again. Patrick Sharp had the next good chance when he lasered a shot high off Luongo. Though the goaltender kept it from the net, he didn’t look too hot immediately afterward.
The ice quickly healed his wounds. (Screenshot from YouTube)
Tomas Kopecky also had a good chance before the opening frame ended, somehow turning a 1-on-3 bid into a hooking penalty against Vancouver defenseman Andrew Alberts. If you’ll recall the previous Vancouver entry on this list, we talked about all the awful defensemen the Canucks employed at this time. It’s a recurring theme, clearly.
A very good scoring chance would occur for Chicago all the way at the 9:00 mark of the second period after Brent Sopel (I think; hard to tell, as he’s facing the wrong way) knocked down a Vancouver shot attempt. The puck bounced to Ben Eager, who found Adam Burish streaking through neutral ice. Now, it seems like Andrew Shaw has been the recipient of a lot of breakaways in recent seasons, but we’d rather almost anyone else have them. Burish might be cut from the same cloth, as shown when he didn’t really even get a shot off on this one. Although he did force Bobby Lu to breakdance.
That was a close one. (Screenshot from YouTube)
And now he’s stuck like this. (Screenshot from YouTube)
Oh, and then Versteeg got a breakaway not long after that, and he was stoned by Luongo as well. Where were Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa during these shifts?
The Blackhawks kept pushing, however. And they kept getting good-to-great scoring bids. But it would take a shorthanded opportunity for them to score again.
A little less than seven minutes into the third period, Vancouver was on a powerplay for a Duncan Keith holding-the-stick penalty. Christian Ehrhoff tried to poke the puck back into the zone after it had been sent around the boards, but instead Sharp took it away and went off to the races with Versteeg against Alex Edler. It didn’t look like Sharp ever considered passing to Versteeg, and he didn’t need to when Luongo came out of his crease to challenge what he thought would be a forehand shot. Instead, Sharp held on, swerved around Luongo and deposited the puck into an empty net on the backhand, finally tying the game at 2.
But wait, we need another breakaway! This one was given to Sharp, the guy who has a history of missing breakaway shots. With Vancouver on another powerplay with about 5:20 left in the third period, Keith absolutely hammered a puck around the boards to clear it. Only, it turned into a breakaway pass for Sharp, as no Vancouver defender was leaving the zone to grab the tossed puck. Sharp had all day to turn Luongo inside out, but he couldn’t settle a rolling puck and fired a shot high and wide.
The Blackhawks, however, would not be denied. A play worthy of a Doc Emrick “WHAT CHAOS” call led to the game-winning goal with about 1:30 to go. Bolland, Ladd and Versteeg went away on a 3-on-2 to start this one. Ladd dished the puck to Versteeg right before entering the offensive zone. Versteeg smartly waited for an open lane while skating ever closer to Luongo, but nothing materialized. Luckily, the puck rolled off his stick to Bolland, who threw a shot on net and saw it knocked down. The puck THEN went to Seabrook, who sent it back to Keith near the point. Keith faked a shot and hit Verseteeg to Luongo’s right, and Steeger sent the puck into the twine just before Luongo could make an adjustment in net.
This goal made Bobby Lu sad, and it also may have helped create the shadow of doubt that would follow him the rest of his time in Vancouver. Oh, and it put the Blackhawks up 3-2 really late in this game. Kane tossed a backhander from center ice into an empty net about 40 seconds after Versteeg’s goal to wrap this one up.
This win made sure the Blackhawks wouldn’t lose both of their first two games at the United Center in this series. It also sent Chicago on a three-game win streak in the series, during which 12 more goals would be scored against the Canucks, all in British Columbia. Good times.
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