By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — More than 85 minutes and a second overtime of hockey hardly showed the differences Saturday night between the Blackhawks and Ducks, two tremendous teams that now stand even in their Western Conference Final at 2-2.
The pace swung to both ends of the ice, the battles went each way and a thrilling game dragged a raucous United Center into a a state of exhaustion. The Blackhawks deserved their 5-4 double-overtime win in Game 4 — not because Chicago has a better team, but its Blackhawks are simply resilient.
“It says a lot about what we can do and what we’re capable of in this series,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, wearing a shirt that said “Strength” on his chest.
A crowd of 22,404 celebrated as Brent Seabrook gave the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead in the third period. Then, Anaheim stunned the building silent with three goals in the span of 37 seconds.
“Couldn’t dream that up in a million years,” Blackhawks center Brad Richards said.
Added Toews: “When it rains, it pours, in some moments.”
This was the second-shortest span for three goals, only getting beat by the 1978-’79 Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that featured Joel Quenneville and Bruce Boudreau. Of course, there was no déjà vu for either coach. Their focus shifted to finishing out a wild game, one that really was just beginning.
Chicago goalie Corey Crawford was tested through the finish of the third period and into overtime, as was Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen. The Blackhawks’ and Ducks’ legs grew tired, but fatigue can’t be a factor in such a stage.
When tested, the Blackhawks show their resolve. Under Quenneville, they have won six of nine series that they trailed 2-1. They battled back to even this series at two with a gutsy effort in the second overtime.
Fitting to that resilience, the game was won by a man who watched the Blackhawks’ Game 3 loss from a stationary bike in the United Center home dressing room. Antoine Vermette was called back to the third line and became a hockey hero in Chicago.
In the second overtime, Vermette took a desperate dish from Teuvo Teravainen and had the presence of mind to dump behind the net, where the puck was retrieved by Patrick Sharp. Then, Vermette snuck into the slot and put a juicy rebound of his own shot to the back of the net.
Think of that — Vermette was benched two days ago, spoke of his frustration Friday, battled through 85 minutes of hockey and then scored on his own second-chance shot. He then skated to the corner and was mobbed by red sweaters.
“Huge goal,” Quenneville said. “Huge. Huge.”
As Vermette spoke to reporters this time, some 36 hours after declaring his disappointment, he had a big smile on his face.
“Hopefully we can do that again,” he said.
For the Blackhawks, this is simply another special win, one like the many prior that has spoiled the city. Where would this goal even rank on a list? Does it make the top 10?
Truth be told, the Blackhawks have become hockey’s modern dynasty because of moments like these. They have a knack for the clutch, but it’s no coincidence. Good teams can create luck, and this core can overcome deficits, overtimes and any adversity it faces.
With each random bounce of the puck, whether it’s off a stick and into neutral ice or off the crossbar to keep the game going, the Blackhawks know how to respond. It’s an experienced group that’s used to these high-pressure situations of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In this postseason alone, the Blackhawks have won a game when blowing a three-goal and and won a game when rallying from a three-goal deficit. They’ve found victory in regulation, two overtimes and three. Their four multiple-overtime wins are an NHL record for one postseason.
No test stands too tall for the Blackhawks.
“We have the character and the poise to relax, calm ourselves down and make a game of it,” Toews said.
Whether it’s Crawford’s sensational play in the crease, Vermette earning redemption in the eyes of his coach or the Blackhawks withstanding their dead legs, Game 4 served as an important reminder.
The Blackhawks are remarkably resilient.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.