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Down 1-0 to Vancouver as time ticked away in the third period, the Blackhawks didn’t panic at the prospect of going down 3-1 in their best-of-seven series. They didn’t try to do too much with the puck, nor did they force anything like one might expect a young team to do. Rather, they had just one objective in mind, and it led them to their 2-1 overtime victory Thursday night.
“It occurred to a lot of guys in this room that all we had to do was stick with our game plan all the way,” said Andrew Ladd, who ultimately tipped in the game-winning goal 2:52 into the extra frame. “We all stuck together as a team, and we kept to our system for the whole game. It worked out for us in the end.”
“We knew that we just had to wait for [our moment],” Dave Bolland said. “We couldn’t get frustrated, and just had to stay with it.”
The Hawks’ formula for success is no secret at this point in the year. Chicago sent a barrage of pucks towards goaltender Roberto Luongo, a total of 28 shots on the night. They defended well at their own end, allowing Vancouver only 15 shots on goal, and when the Canucks did get their chances on offense, Nikolai Khabibulin was in place to make clutch saves, including two crucial stops early in overtime. Most importantly, the Hawks were able to rebound from a deficit and leave with a win.
“It looked grim, but the enthusiasm was there on the bench. We knew we could get it done,” said head coach Joel Quenneville. “I don’t think we gave up many of opportunities; it might not have looked pretty, but it was competitive out there.
“I’d like to find out what we’re like with a lead,” Quenneville added. “After four games, I think we’re due.”
While both defense and goaltending played major roles in the win, it was the clutch performance of the combination of Ladd, Bolland and Martin Havlat that made the victory possible. Like they had done some many other times this season, the linemates made the biggest plays when it counted the most: Havlat scored a game-tying goal with just 2:42 left in regulation off a feed from Ladd, and then Ladd tipped in a pass from Bolland to put the game away in OT.
“We were patient and we worked hard for that win. We believed in ourselves and what we were doing tonight.” Havlat said. “It doesn’t matter who scores the goals in the playoffs; it’s about winning.”
Tied 2-2, the Blackhawks will return to Vancouver looking to capture their first lead in the series. They have the momentum heading back to GM Place, but they were reminded tonight just how quickly it can shift in the playoffs.
“There’s always a defining moment in the season and the playoffs, and maybe this is something we can hang our hat on,” Quenneville said. “At the same time, we shouldn’t be satisfied with anything that happened tonight. We know we’re going into a tough building against a tough team. We need to be ready.”
Brad Boron | chicagoblackhawks.com