05/04/2010 8:42 AM
- From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)
CHICAGO -- The fan at the top row of the upper deck kept shouting as loud as he could at Kris Versteeg, despite not having a prayer of the Blackhawks forward hearing a single word.
"Get off the ice, Versteeg!" he screamed. "You're terrible!"
It was that kind of night for Versteeg -- at least for the first 58:30 of Monday's Game 2 in this Western Conference Semifinal series against the Canucks.
He had passes bounce off his stick blade deep in the Hawks zone. He fell down at inopportune times -- once even getting called for a trip midway through the first period to give the Canucks a power play.
He got stonewalled by Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo a couple of times, including once after he broke in alone. Then there was Versteeg's stick, which seemed to spend almost as much time sliding across the ice as he did for much of the first two periods. Each miscue brought more vitriol from the unhappy fan way up top and a smattering of others who joined in his chorus.
Then, just like that, all was forgiven in the second that it took Duncan Keith to find Versteeg with a crisp pass that he fired past Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo with 1:30 left in the third period. It was the game-winning goal in a 4-2 win the Hawks absolutely had to have as the series shifts back to Vancouver for Games 3 and 4.
It was also fitting for the guy the Hawks called "Steeger," who is one of the dressing room's bigger cut-ups. Hawks captain Jonathan Toews just smiled when asked about Versteeg's goal being somewhat fitting after the night he'd had.
"Nobody had to say anything to him," Toews said. "He stuck with it and didn't get frustrated. When you're getting chances, that's the best thing. You don't want to start thinking too much. You just want to keep throwing it on net. As skilled as he is, and as good of a shot as he has, something's bound to go in for him."
When it finally did, the look of relief on his face said it all. Somewhat surprisingly, Versteeg said he wasn't all that frustrated before scoring.
"I felt really good out there tonight," he said. "Sometimes bounces went other ways when they should have, but luckily the last puck came to me. I was just going to shoot it as hard as I could. It doesn't even feel good about the goal. It feels good to help this team and contribute."
Versteeg's stat line was impressive, though lost sticks and stumbles on ice ruts aren't tallied in the final box score. He logged 13:58 of ice time, finished plus-3 and, in addition to the goal, assisted on Brent Seabrook's tally in the first period to cut Vancouver's lead to 2-1.
He played on a line with Andrew Ladd and Dave Bolland, and Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was happy with their play.
"That line was effective in a lot of ways," Quenneville said. "(Versteeg's) production looks like he's struggling, but at the same time he's been useful in a lot of ways. The finish has been tough in some games, but he had some good looks tonight and finally got rewarded."
In all, the Hawks again showed they're at their best when all of their lines contribute -- not just the one with Toews and Patrick Kane.
"We're definitely very dangerous when we have scoring coming from all over our lineup," Toews said. "That's what makes a great team. We've got D-men top to bottom and same thing with our forwards. If you give 'em great opportunities, they're going to make you pay. It's what makes us a good team."