Video Of Day: Vermette wins Game 4 in double overtime

Our second Video Of Day would be none other than Antoine Vermette’s game-winner in double overtime lifting the Blackhawks to a wild and unpredictable 5-4 win over the Ducks in Game 4 to even the Western Conference Final.

For most of sudden death, the Hawks wouldn’t get pucks deep turning it over causing a slew of chances for the Ducks’ ferocious attack. If not for the brilliant play of Corey Crawford (47 saves), they don’t prevail. Hell. They probably are swept by Anaheim. Don’t forget Crawford’s 60 saves that allowed Chicago to outlast the Ducks in triple overtime back in Game 2.

On the winning play, the Hawks finally got the puck in and were able to finally beat Frederik Andersen. Rookie Teuvo Teravainen kept a puck in and dumped it down to Patrick Sharp behind the net. Sharp made a nice move and threw a backhand saucer pass in front to a cutting Vermette, who had his first shot blocked. However, he stuck with the rebound and had just enough space to fire it from a tough angle past Andersen and Anaheim defenseman Simon Despres for the game-winner at 85:37.

As Doc Emrick noted on NBC in this classic that featured an astonishing three Ducks goals in a 39-second span to go ahead 4-3 in the third period, the 91st shot of the contest was the game-decider. Remarkably, the Hawks almost lost in epic fashion blowing a two-goal lead. After goals from Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook, they fell apart. The Ducks scored three in a row with Ryan Kesler, Matt Beleskey and Corey Perry putting them ahead. But the Hawks finally converted a power play with Brad Richards making a great shot pass to Patrick Kane, who was able to squeak it past Andersen to force overtime.

This is a game many will talk about for a while. The Ducks have dominated most of the play with their forecheck. They have continued to hit the Hawks and pound a thin D corps with Chicago coach Joel Quenneville relying mostly on the top four of Duncan Keith (40:39), Brent Seabrook (32:03), Niklas Hjalmarsson (39:13) and Johnny Oduya (29:26). At least he worked Kyle Cumiskey (13:27) in with the inexperienced defenseman having a strong shift getting the puck deep twice to cause a Ducks icing prior to Vermette’s heroics. Kimmo Timonen only saw 13 shifts (10:15) with hardly any following a giveaway that led to Beleskey’s goal in the third.

The big question headed into a pivotal Game 5 is what do the Hawks have left. Their D has been worked tirelessly by the Ducks with Perry and Getzlaf dominating shifts. Kesler and Andrew Cogliano have been all over the ice. Anaheim is deeper and coach Bruce Boudreau rolls everyone including all six D. The Hawks have had to work extra hard for their two wins going 10 periods before prevailing in sudden death.

It’ll be interesting to see who comes out strong at the start of Monday’s big game. Will the Hawks get an extra adrenaline kick from their emotional victory? Will the Ducks continue to grind away and take the middle of the ice from the Hawks? Or will they have an emotional letdown? We’ll see.

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Video Of Day: Ducks score 3 goals in 39 seconds

In last night’s Western Conference Final Game 4 between the Ducks and Blackhawks, they gave us an unbelievable show in a wild third period. With the scored tied 1-1, the teams combined for six goals in a goal scoring exhibition.

It was the Ducks who pulled off an astonishing feat scoring three goals in 39 seconds to come back and take a 4-3 lead with 10:41 remaining. Following a Brent Seabrook rocket that put the Hawks in front 3-1, Anaheim responded in epic fashion. First, Ryan Kesler scored 1:04 later from Jacob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano cutting it to 3-2. Then, Matt Beleskey scored 23 seconds later unassisted to tie the score.

They weren’t done. Just 14 seconds later, Corey Perry beat Duncan Keith to the front of the net to pot a Ryan Getzlaf rebound past a stunned Corey Crawford. Just like that, the Ducks quacked ahead 4-3 putting themselves in position for a sweep of the two games at United Center. Had they pulled it off, they would’ve gone up 3-1 in the series with a chance to wrap it up back home.

Instead, the Hawks rallied back to tie the score 3:20 later courtesy of a Patrick Kane power play goal off a great set up from Brad Richards. That forced overtime. The Ducks dominated the first OT outshooting the Hawks 17-5. But they couldn’t get one past Crawford who turned into a brick wall. Similar to his Herculean 60-save effort in the Hawks triple overtime Game 2 win, Crawford repelled all 21 Ducks shots in sudden death to finish with 47 saves.

Game 3 scratch Antoine Vermette played the hero scoring at 85:37 of the second overtime. He converted his own rebound off a nice Patrick Sharp pass from behind the net. Ironically, Vermette and the other Game 3 scratch Teuvo Teravainen factored into the game-winner to square the series.

Game 5 is Monday at Honda Center.

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Deadline Acquisition Yandle Delivering For Blueshirts

Keith Yandle celebrates his goal that made it 3-1 late in the second with Rick Nash and Kevin Klein. AP Photo by Chris O'Meara/Getty Images

Keith Yandle celebrates his goal that made it 3-1 late in the second with Rick Nash and Kevin Klein Friday night. Yandle has stepped it up for the Blueshirts against the Lightning.
AP Photo by Chris O’Meara/Getty Images

When Rangers general manager Glen Sather pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal for Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle at the trade deadline, he took a calculated gamble on the 28-year old from Boston. In parting with top prospect Anthony Duclair, defenseman John Moore, a 2015 second round pick and a 2016 first round pick for Yandle, defenseman Chris Summers and a 2016 fourth round pick, Sather felt it was a chance to strengthen the Rangers’ blueline.

After adjusting to coach Alain Vigneault’s up tempo system that allows skilled defensemen to pinch aggressively on the forecheck, Yandle has had his ups and downs during the playoffs. As part of the team’s third pair with Kevin Klein and at times Dan Boyle, he struggled defensively. When he coughed up pucks and had some unfortunate luck in Game 3 of the second round with Jay Beagle’s wraparound going in off his stick, Yandle took heavy criticism. Especially when the power play struggled against the Caps.

Brought in to aid the power play, it hasn’t come easy. At one point, Vigneault had Yandle teamed with Ryan McDonagh on the top unit. With it ineffective, the Rangers’ second-year coach switched it up moving Yandle and McDonagh to the second unit with Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller. He has stuck with Derick Brassard and Boyle running the points on the top unit with Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Martin St. Louis up front. That magic formula is working with the club responding by scoring twice in each of the last three games converting 6-of-13 against the Lightning. In Friday’s big 5-1 win in Game 4 that evened the series, they went 2-for-4 including power play goals from St. Louis and Nash who both got off the snide.

With McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal occupied with neutralizing Triplets Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov plus Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn, Yandle has stood out the last two games tallying a goal and four assists. His imprints were all over last night’s win that sent the Eastern Conference Final back to MSG for tomorrow’s pivotal Game 5 all even.

It was Yandle who helped set up Chris Kreider’s game-winner with 4:44 left in the second. His feed allowed partner Klein to get a tough low shot on Ben Bishop, who leaked out a rebound which Kreider finished for his team-leading seventh of the postseason. Less than a couple of minutes later, this time Klein passed for Yandle at an open point where the offensive defenseman let go of a shot that took a lucky bounce off Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman past Bishop for a big insurance marker.

Yandle has shown more confidence offensively making smart decisions with the puck. Following St. Louis’ first of the playoffs which also came on the power play from Brassard and Boyle, Yandle made a good shot pass for a Hayes deflection that Bishop couldn’t quite cover. That allowed Nash to poke the puck in for his second of the game putting the final exclamation point on a 5-1 victory.

Without Yandle’s contributions, the Rangers probably don’t return to The Garden with the series tied at 2-2. At times, he can be a bit too unselfish deferring to teammates. What they got from him yesterday was more instinctive decisions. He wasn’t as hesitant. That was also the case in their wild 6-5 Game 3 overtime defeat. His offense has come at a perfect time. Ditto for Boyle who’ll bring a three-game point streak (1-4-5) into Sunday night. Klein also has three helpers over the last two.

With McDonagh, Girardi and Staal struggling with the Bolts’ lethal combination of speed and skill, it’s been the play of the bottom half of the D that’s performed. Yandle and Klein have stepped up. Boyle is providing offense but remains an adventure. Of course, it can be argued that that also applies to Yandle. But when Sather took the risk, he knew what he was getting. In this round, his big acquisition is finally fitting in.

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Lundqvist delivers big performance to even series

King Henrik: Henrik Lundqvist responded in a big way making 38 saves to lead the Rangers to a 5-1 Game 4 victory evening the Eastern Conference Final against the Lightning.  AP Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/Getty Images

King Henrik: Henrik Lundqvist responded in a big way making 38 saves to lead the Rangers to a 5-1 Game 4 victory evening the Eastern Conference Final against the Lightning.
AP Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/Getty Images

It would’ve been easy for Henrik Lundqvist to cave in. After allowing 12 goals in Games 2 and 3, the Rangers franchise netminder was under fire from panicked fans and some media. They wanted to know what was wrong with him.

Following giving up Nikita Kucherov’s long unscreened 27-footer that put the Lightning up two games to one, Lundqvist admitted that he didn’t pick it up while doubting his positioning against a very talented and explosive opponent. For the first time since we’ve seen him shine on Broadway for a decade, the unflappable goalie seemed to be questioning himself. Who wouldn’t after permitting as many goals in two games as he did in seven against the Caps last round?

What people quickly forget is that Lundqvist is human. He has off nights. We just aren’t used to seeing him have consecutive bad games. A city and its fans so panicked that some suggested starting backup Cam Talbot for Friday night’s crucial Game 4. A question even New York Post columnist Larry Brooks posed to coach Alain Vigneault on Thursday. No stranger to goalie controversies given his history in Vancouver, Vigneault laughed it off before adding that Lundqvist was his guy.

There was so much riding on the line last night. The Rangers could ill afford to fall behind 3-1 against a more dangerous Lightning as they had against the Caps. To a man, they knew they had to win Game 4 and come back home to MSG Sunday with the Eastern Conference Final tied 2-2. Without their best player, it doesn’t happen. Following a good first period which even featured a Rick Nash sighting- he scored at 17:18- the Rangers led 1-0.

The Lightning came out like Bolts of fire taking it to the Blueshirts at the start of the second. It took them about six seconds to win a faceoff and set up a shot. I’m exaggerating here but before you knew it, the shots were 7-1 Tampa. Lundqvist was tested often. He challenged more coming out to force Kucherov wide and deny Alex Killorn. Penalty trouble put the Rangers on the defensive. Both Marc Staal and Chris Kreider took bad penalties that allowed the Bolts to dictate.

Even following a big kill of a senseless Kreider offensive zone tripping minor, they came until finally Valtteri Filppula and Killorn combined to set up Steven Stamkos for a rocket that tied it at 11:30. With the Thunder Dome rocking, they continued to come looking for that surge they had pulverized Lundqvist with the last two games. It never came due to inspired play from the King. He was on his game turning aside 18 of 19 shots. That included bailing out teammates with Ryan McDonagh again struggling along with Dan Girardi. He made a big stop to deny a breakaway giving his team a lift.

”The last 48 hours or so, it’s been pretty tough trying not to overanalyze or complicate things soul searching,” Lundqvist said. ”I feel like the entire team stepped up. It feels so good when you’re feeling like you’re doing it together and not just one or two guys.”

Keith Yandle celebrates his goal that made it 3-1 late in the second with Rick Nash and Kevin Klein. AP Photo by Chris O'Meara/Getty Images

Keith Yandle celebrates his goal that made it 3-1 late in the second with Rick Nash and Kevin Klein.
AP Photo by Chris O’Meara/Getty Images

Goaltending came into play. Unlike the wild shootout they lost in overtime on Wednesday, the Rangers had the decided edge in net. While Lundqvist was making huge saves at one end, you had Ben Bishop coughing up a bad rebound of a Kevin Klein shot right to Kreider, who steered it home for the go-ahead goal at 15:17. A play started by Keith Yandle, who had himself a game finishing with a goal and two helpers. Over the last two games, Yandle’s been the Rangers’ most effective defenseman tallying five points (1-4-5). Exactly what GM Of The Year candidate Glen Sather got him for.

”I think there was a lot of talk about him and about his play, but there wasn’t any doubt from within our dressing room. Hank has done this so many times before,” Vigneault said. ”We knew he was going to come out and do what he always does, give us a chance to win. And, that’s what he did again tonight.”

Kreider’s goal seemed to give them confidence. Finally settling down, they got another big shift from Nash who took the team out to a private screening of Entourage Thursday night as a distraction. It did wonders for Nash, who dominated a double shift with Tanner Glass and James Sheppard. Controlling the puck, he patiently fed Klein who dished across for a Yandle shot that was headed wide before taking a favorable bounce off Victor Hedman past Bishop for a 3-1 edge at 17:04. Glass did the work in front causing a distraction. He might not have gotten credit for a point but his hustle paid off.

Martin St. Louis finally celebrates a goal scoring on the power play after drawing a high-sticking penalty.  AP Photo by Chris O'Meara/Getty Images

Martin St. Louis finally celebrates a goal scoring on the power play after drawing a high-sticking penalty.
AP Photo by Chris O’Meara/Getty Images

Despite being outshot 19-6, the Rangers came out of the second plus-one leading the Lightning 3-1. It was mostly due to Lundqvist who finished with 38 saves stopping all 13 Tampa shots in the third. They also continued to find holes in Bishop’s game. That even included Martin St. Louis’ first goal of these playoffs. He got the monkey off his bag on a power play when he cashed in off a great misdirection pass from Derick Brassard firing a one-timer into an open side. The power play goal was started by some great hustle from Dan Boyle, who raced to keep a puck in and pass across to Brassard who faked shot and then had St. Louis for a finish that had to feel awfully sweet.

Clearly frustrated by the Rangers’ more edgy play that included an undetected Kevin Hayes chop on playoff star Tyler Johnson, the Lightning lost their discipline. Brenden Morrow was off for a hook when Yandle made another great play firing in front for a Hayes redirect into Bishop that Nash got a stick on prying the puck into the net for a two-goal playoff game with an assist. A nice turn of events.

”It’s just natural to grip your stick a little bit tighter and to not see the ice as well when you’re struggling,” Nash said. ”The puck doesn’t feel comfortable on your stick, so any time you can get a goal and get a little confidence it helps.”

One noticeable difference from this game compared to the previous two was the Rangers’ ferocity. While not perfect, they were more physical and got underneath the Bolts’ skin causing scrums including a somewhat entertaining shoving match between Carl Hagelin and former teammate Ryan Callahan. Hagelin also got in the face of Johnson with the outcome decided while McDonagh jousted with Ondrej Palat. Derek Stepan got an extra two for high-sticking and Kucherov got a misconduct.

Klein didn’t take kindly to Morrow interfering with Lundqvist in the final minute giving him a headlock. The Rangers stuck together. Glass also got in the face of Craig Paquette following a cheap hit on Sheppard with four seconds remaining. Finally, there was some animosity between the clubs. It only took four games.

Now comes a pivotal Game 5 back in Manhattan tomorrow night. The Rangers can take solace knowing they shutdown the Triplets limiting Palat, Johnson and Kucherov to three shots and no points. A big difference. They also know they have the better goalie who in a big spot, delivered once more. Lundqvist will have to continue to be great for them to advance. So will his teammates.

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Lightning Strikes as Kucherov’s OT winner puts Rangers behind

So much for a bounce back performance. For a second consecutive game, the Lightning put up a six spot on Henrik Lundqvist. Unlike Game 2’s 6-2 blowout, this one was more damaging with Nikita Kucherov scoring at 3:33 of overtime to beat the Rangers 6-5 in a wild Game 3 at Amalie Arena.

Even after getting off to a quick 2-0 start on goals from Derick Brassard and Jesper Fast, the Rangers couldn’t get out of their own way. The more dangerous Bolts erupted for four straight taking a 4-2 lead late in the second period. Even after they showed resiliency getting the next two to draw even, the Rangers made costly mistakes that was the difference in another shootout.

Tyler Johnson continued his assault scoring his playoff-leading 12th goal and assisting on another. Triplet linemates Kucherov and Ondrej Palat each recorded two points. Steven Stamkos had a goal and assist while Alex Killorn scored twice. The Lightning had no trouble beating a subpar Lundqvist who gave up Kucherov’s game-winner from way out. He allowed six goals on 40 shots taking another beating at the hands of a team that owns him. It was the fifth time this season he’s allowed five goals or more to the Bolts.

Unless he improves dramatically, the Rangers don’t stand a chance of winning the series. Of course, it’s not only Lundqvist that’s been bad. It’s most of the team including a previously impenetrable defense that’s been exposed by the quicker and more skilled Lightning. In leading two games to one in this Eastern Conference Final, they’re taking advantage of every Ranger mistake. There are too many to list.

Even a great start wasn’t enough against the Lightning. Taking advantage of a ticky tac Craig Paquette roughing minor following the game’s first shift, Brassard fired a laser through a Chris Kreider screen past Ben Bishop to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 62 seconds in. Dan Boyle and Derek Stepan set it up.

Before 10 minutes had been played, Fast put them ahead by two when he followed up a rebound from Kreider and Ryan McDonagh. But before they could even get comfortable, a bad Boyle turnover at the point led directly to Stamkos coming with Killorn two-on-one on Lundqvist who steered the rebound right to Stamkos for a tap in cutting it to 2-1 at 11:55. Just a brutal play all around with everyone scrambling and Lundqvist hurting himself.

Another selfish Brassard penalty (hooking) midway thru the contest allowed the Bolts to tie the score. They converted their fifth power play goal already when Stamkos and Johnson combined to feed Palat for a wicked wrist shot far side on Lundqvist at 10:32 of the second period. Keith Yandle followed by getting nabbed for holding but on the delayed penalty, he drew a even up trip on Brenden Morrow leading to 4-on-4. What followed was another mind numbing sequence.

Marc Staal was set up perfectly in the slot. One-on-one with Bishop, he missed the net causing another Bolts transition which resulted in an all too predictable easy Johnson goal from Palat and Victor Hedman. How bad was it? On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the lowest, I’d put it at a zero for the Rangers’ lack of focus. They were awful with Kreider in particular caught napping instead of taking Johnson.

Trailing for the first time, the Rangers put themselves in a bigger hole. Off another miscue, they watched Killorn outrace them and then pull up and fire a stoppable shot top shelf on Lundqvist at 17:18 to make it 4-2. Hedman set the play in motion letting Killorn do the rest. He’s been the best defenseman by a mile. He’s playing well defensively with Anton Stralman blanketing the all but invisible Rick Nash. Did he even play?

Down by two, the Blueshirts responded immediately thanks to another big shift from Fast. The emerging first-year Swede took a Kevin Klein feed and cut in on Bishop faking shot and then deking with a sweet backhand finish only 29 seconds later to pull them within 4-3. Stepan started it drawing a secondary helper.

They would tie it up on another power play early in the third. With Andrej Sustr off for tripping Carl Hagelin, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault sent out the second unit which included J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, Nash, Yandle and McDonagh. After failing twice in a key portion up 2-1 in the second, the power play came through with Hayes skating into the slot before making a great dish for an open McDonagh, who shot high past a sprawling Bishop tying it with 17:32 left.

Playing in a tie game with a chance to steal it, another mistake put them down once more. This time, Kreider made a terrible decision. After taking a hit during a shift, he went for retaliation in a tie game with about six minutes left. After delivering the big hit, it took him out of the play entirely with allowing Nikita Nesterov to feed Kucherov who found a wide open Palat in front for his second of the game giving the Bolts a 5-4 lead with 5:55 remaining. It was a play so inexplicable that you wonder where Kreider’s head was.

Lucky for him, his teammates found a way to tie it with under two minutes left in regulation. Following a Tampa icing, the Rangers won a offensive draw back to Yandle, who didn’t hesitate for once with his shot getting deflected in front by Miller causing a rebound which Boyle deposited making it 5-5 with 1:56 remaining. For most of the period, they got killed on draws. No coincidence that after Vigneault moved Miller up to the ineffective Brassard/Nash unit, they finally got some results. Miller makes things happen and should stay for Friday’s pivotal Game 4.

Entering overtime, the Rangers were a perfect 4-0 while the Lightning were 2-0. Something had to give. Early on, the Blueshirts got good pressure with consecutive strong shifts from the Brassard line and from the third unit of Hagelin, Dominic Moore and Martin St. Louis. It was Moore who took the puck hard to the net and tried to beat Bishop with a backhand in tight but he stopped it and then the refs blew the whistle due to a player shoved into him. The puck was loose.

The stunning end came when Kucherov took a Nesterov feed in his own end and coasted past a slow changing Rangers before pulling up at the top of the circle and sending a wrister past Lundqvist to the stick side at 3:33. A shot so easy normally but not on this night and not against this opponent.

Now, the Rangers face a must win scenario. There’s no way they’re coming back against this team from 3-1 down. They aren’t the Caps. The Lightning have much more speed and are more explosive. Two straight games, they’ve gotten the Rangers to play a more wide open style which favors their up tempo attack. The Rangers must find a way to slow them down. They also must manage pucks better through the neutral zone and forecheck more consistently behind Bishop’s net. Make them play D.

They aren’t practicing tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see what adjustments Vigneault makes. Unless they get better play from Lundqvist and Nash awakens, it could be lights out.

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Maple Leafs beat out Sabres for Babcock

The Maple Leafs have won the #BabcockWatch. Amidst much speculation, TSN’s Darren Dreger confirmed that the Leafs will hire top coaching free agent Mike Babcock as their new coach. The official press conference is tomorrow.

It came down to the Sabres and Leafs. Buffalo was all in on Babcock who spent the past decade coaching the Red Wings. He had lots of success guiding them to a Stanley Cup in ’07-08 and a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final the following year where they fell just short of repeating losing to the Penguins by a goal in Game 7. Once the Wings were eliminated in seven by the Lightning in the first round, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion he’d leave. He finished 458-223-105 posting a .649 winning percentage in 10 seasons as Red Wings coach.

The past 24 hours while the Blackhawks needed triple overtime to defeat the Ducks, rumors intensified on Babcock. TSN’s Aaron Ward tweeted that Babcock would not return to Detroit. What followed was chaos as to where he would wind up.

What followed was confirmation by TSN’s Bob MacKenzie that the Sabres were out leaving some speculation that maybe there was a “secret team” involved like the Blues or Sharks. Apparently, Babcock saw only green in a return home to Toronto. He’s from Ontario and will be introduced by former pupil Brendan Shanahan tomorrow at 11 AM.  Not only is Babcock taking over for a reported eight years, $50 million. But apparently he might be bringing former Lightning coach Guy Boucher to his staff as an assistant. Jeez.

For the Sabres, they swung and missed. Obviously, it hurts somewhat. But if Babcock thinks going home will be easy coaching the Leafs, good luck. He might want to pack some extra golf clubs. Buffalo still owns the number two overall pick in next month’s highly anticipated draft where the Oilers are expected to select Connor McDavid with the number one pick. The Sabres will get a great consolation prize in prized Boston University prospect Jack Eichel. The Leafs pick fourth.

With Babcock off the market, Sabres GM Tim Murray continues his coaching search. The top candidates are Dan Bylsma, Paul MacLean and Luke Richardson per Sabres correspondent Joe Yerdon.

Richardson is the Senators AHL coach at Binghamton. He’s the favorite due to his familiarity with Murray. The former defenseman has never coached an NHL team. He’s 46. Obviously, Bylsma and MacLean have experience. It all depends on what Murray’s plan is. In a rebuild, it might make more sense to hire a young coach who has the patience to deal with mistakes from young players and develop. It doesn’t always work as the Oilers discovered with Dallas Eakins. They just hired former Sharks bench boss Todd McLellan in more low key news yesterday signing him for five years.

For Buffalo, finishing second is nothing new. However, just maybe it’ll be better for the franchise over the long haul. It’s now Murray’s move.

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Marcus Kruger wins the longest playoff game in Hawks history

Marcus Kruger is congratulated by happy Hawks after winning the longest game in franchise history. Chicago evened the series with Anaheim prevailing 3-2 in triple overtime. AP Photo by Jae C. Hong/Getty Images

Marcus Kruger is congratulated by happy Hawks after winning the longest game in franchise history. Chicago evened the series with Anaheim prevailing 3-2 in triple overtime.
AP Photo by Jae C. Hong/Getty Images

For nearly six periods, the Blackhawks and Ducks played a epic game at Honda Center. Game 2 of the Western Conference Final was a marathon that went to triple overtime. In a battle of wills, the Hawks found a way to even the series prevailing 3-2 on Marcus Kruger’s goal at 116:12 of the third overtime. It was the longest playoff game in Hawks’ history.

Kruger’s goal ended a 78:41 stretch since Corey Perry’s tied the contest on a deflection from Ryan Getzlaf at 17:30 of the second period. Anaheim climbed out of an early two-goal hole to force sudden death. Chicago started quickly getting power play goals from Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa 4:05 apart in the first period. Andrew Cogliano’s redirection of a Nate Thompson shot cut the deficit in half less than three minutes later. Perry evened it on a neat redirect of a Getzlaf shot.

The story was the brilliant play of the two netminders. On one side, Corey Crawford made 60 saves including 28 in overtime. On the other was Frederik Andersen who finished with 53 saves to suffer a gut wrenching defeat. Neither budged in sudden death. They each were sensational making astonishing stops at each end. Crawford’s best saves came during the second OT when he denied Cam Fowler and then stoned Perry point blank. He also benefited from three goalposts. Andersen’s best came when he robbed Antoine Vermette in the final minute of double OT. He also denied Shaw point blank in the first OT.

How impressive was it? Led by Getzlaf, Perry and an activated defense, the Ducks’ furious forecheck causing all sorts of chaos against a undermanned Hawks who basically played four defensemen with major minutes going to Brent Seabrook (47:46), Duncan Keith (49:51), Niklas Hjalmarsson (47:35) and Johnny Oduya (46:06). Even with coach Joel Quenneville barely rotating Kimmo Timonen and Kyle Cumiskey (Comiskey), they managed to prevail despite Anaheim’s physicality and size. The Ducks outhit the Hawks 71-45. They were the fresher team with coach Bruce Boudreau able to trust all six of his blueliners even with Fowler (40:21), Francois Beauchemin (46:29) and Hampus Lindholm (44:07) logging heavy minutes.

The Ducks did a great job limiting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. They combined for 11 shots but weren’t given a lot of real estate. Most of the Hawks’ best chances were created by Vermette and rookie Teuvo Teravainen. They were dangerous throughout sudden death with Vermette in particular almost ending it before the conclusion of the second OT. He also was perfectly set up on the doorstep but missed a tap-in.

Anaheim put on heavy pressure for most of the third overtime. An extended shift from Getzlaf, Perry and Patrick Maroon had an exhausted Hawks pinned in for almost two minutes. They iced the puck but caught a break with it coming under 10 minutes left which meant the ice had to be cleaned. Knowledgeable Ducks fans groaned. That along with a great solo effort from Kyle Palmieri which Crawford denied with help in front were their best opportunities to go up two games to none. Instead, they’re knotted with Game 3 Thursday at Chicago.

A closer look at Marcus Kruger's triple overtime winner past Frederik Andersen. AP Photo by Mark J. Terrill/Getty Images

A closer look at Marcus Kruger’s triple overtime winner past Frederik Andersen.
AP Photo by Mark J. Terrill/Getty Images

With both goalies locked in, the game seemed headed to a fourth overtime. However, with over four minutes left Seabrook was able to get a shot through off a board carom which changed direction twice. It looked like it might’ve went off Shaw before going right to to Kruger who batted it out of mid-air to beat Andersen. That fortunate bounce is how the game had to be decided. It wasn’t gonna be a clean shot.

At one point in the second OT with the Hawks on a power play, Shaw intentionally headbutted a puck out of mid-air into the Ducks net. Knowing he couldn’t use his stick, he headed the puck past Andersen causing a premature celebration. But once the refs got together, it went to video review and was properly waved off. Even though it was creative, a player cannot do that. Shaw may as well have used a glove to bat it in. No way that was going to count.

The controversial play certainly drew plenty of chuckles. It was hilarious. Give Shaw credit for originality. But unless you’re a goalie and usually named Henrik Lundqvist, you can’t use your helmet.

With that series all even, you wonder what they’ll do for an encore tomorrow. Full credit to Rangers’ radio announcer Kenny Albert for traveling to Anaheim and doing Game 2 with Joe Micheletti. Albert will take a red eye to Tampa for Game 3 tonight. There’s not a harder working man. He’ll then fly to Chicago for Game 3. Amazing.

That in a nutshell is the playoffs for broadcast talent. They do a wonderful job.

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