By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Something special happened Saturday during a routine second-period timeout in Game 6, one of those unique moments the United Center brings of its Blackhawks fans.
A whistle shrieked, and both the Blackhawks and Blues retreated to their respective benches, but the 22,260 fans inside the United Center remained standing, screaming, chanting and cheering. There was no music of piped-in effects, just pure passion.
What a scene it was as the raucous crowd remained standing during a television timeout for quite the memorable ovation. The Blackhawks had just come back from down 3-1 to tie the rival Blues, with their resilience revealing itself. The home crowd offer quite the salute, feeling the series had turned to their Blackhawks’ favor.
“It was just outstanding,” Blackhawks forward Andrew Desjardins said.
Moments later, Dale Weise scored the go-ahead goal and the Blackhawks had a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Chicago earned a 6-3 victory over the Blues and forced a Game 7 in St. Louis at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.
Seemingly down for the count once more, the Blackhawks battled back in incredible fashion, scoring three goals in the second period and two more to solidify their victory in the final stanza.
The Blackhawks reminded again that they have the heart of a champion.
“Everybody feels that confidence,” Desjardins said. “We’re never out, we’re always pushing forward.”
Added Weise: “There’s just nothing that can rattle this team, no matter what the score is.”
Speaking Friday, Weise reflected on the palpable confidence of his new team, something he assumed watching from the outside. The Blackhawks newcomer was admittedly blown away. That confidence was on display in the comeback.
There was no panic in the first intermission, in which the Blackhawks pondered their two-goal deficit. There was Richard Panik, part of coach Joel Quenneville’s key adjustment to the first line of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Quenneville’s line changes proved to be the difference, as Chicago’s best four lines were on the ice from the second period on.
The Blackhawks are now 15-1 since 2010 in Quenneville-coached Game 6s, largely because of the future Hall of Famer’s ability to figure out his foe and counter the attack. Quenneville’s a mastermind behind the bench.
The Blackhawks refined their attack, beating the Blues with stretch passes and creating opportunities with odd-man rushes. They were able to get into Brian Elliott’s crease, too, and wreak havoc. Finally, Elliott seemed human.
For the first time this series, a better team revealed itself, and it’s the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I thought we had our best game of the series,” Quenneville said, declining to go too far into depth.
Some 50 yards away from the victorious dressing room were the Blues’ quarters. You could hear a pin drop in that room. Several Blues were seen hanging their heads. When the Blues owned a 3-1 series lead, they were the ones playing better, more disciplined hockey, and the Blackhawks lacked poise. The series has certainly shifted.
The Blues have lost three straight first-round series and are a loss away from the grand slam. Even the jovial Ken Hitchcock was short on words in his postgame press conference. Should St. Louis bow out again — especially after leading 3-1 in the series — Hitchcock may be out of his fourth head coaching job.
Given their track record, you best believe the Blues are short on confidence amid adversity.
“We got Game 7 at home,” Hitchcock said. “It’s a best-case scenario we could’ve asked for. We had a dream for getting this matchup and getting home-ice advantage.”
Of course, the best-case scenario would’ve been finishing off the defending Stanley Cup champions in St. Louis in Game 5 and moving on. Now, the Blues are feeling the pressure of another potential collapse — perhaps one of epic proportions.
Trailing 3-1 in the series and again in Game 6, the Blackhawks hardly blinked, nor did they appear satisfied with Saturday’s result. That’s the mark of a championship team, one which has experienced the game’s greatest pinnacle three times in six seasons. These Blackhawks believe they can win the Stanley Cup once again, and who’s to question such a thought?
Once again, the Blackhawks showed their resolve, forcing a Game 7 against many odds. Counting out this team is usually a mistake. The Blackhawks earned their standing ovation Saturday. Now, they need a big win to continue their Stanley Cup defense.
Showing their unflappable form, the Blackhawks forced a Game 7.