Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer
CHICAGO -- In a game that one coach likened to chess rather than hockey, Chicago's line of Dave Bolland, Martin Havlat and Andrew Ladd checkmated the Vancouver Canucks.
"Today was probably one of the best chess matches I've seen in hockey this whole year but, unfortunately, we came out on the wrong side," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said after his team couldn't hold on to a 1-0 lead late in regulation and lost 2-1 in overtime Thursday night in Game 4 of their Western Conference Semifinal series.
The Canucks were less than three minutes away from heading home for a potential series-clinching Game 5 on Saturday night when the Bolland-Ladd-Havlat trio took over.
Ladd dug the puck off the right wall and fed Havlat, whose wrist shot from between the circles beat Roberto Luongo with 2:44 remaining to tie the game and light a fire under the 22,682 fans at the United Center who had grown increasingly quiet as the specter of a 3-1 series deficit loomed closer and closer.
After Nikolai Khabibulin made the biggest of his 14 saves by stopping Henrik Sedin early in OT, the Hawks won the game on the return rush when Ladd, stationed in front of Luongo, got a tip on Bolland's shot from the far right circle at 2:52 of overtime.
"Bolland has great patience with the puck," Ladd said. "He turned around, saw my stick and got it to the right spot. We've got a little momentum here and can take it back to Vancouver."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said getting traffic in front of Luongo -- something they had trouble doing most of the night -- was the key to the game-winner.
"Against (Luongo), shots at the net, traffic, second and third opportunities, tips, screens, deflections -- that's how you have to beat him," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "The more we do that, the better chance we have to put the puck behind him."
The Hawks continue to do things the hard way. Despite keeping the Canucks from doing anything offensively for the first half of the game, they fell behind for the fourth straight game in the series when fourth-liners Rick Rypien and Darcy Hordichuk combined for a picturesque goal at 8:32 of the second period. Rypien's spin-o-rama, a move popularized by Hawks' legend Denis Savard a generation or two ago, set up Hordichuk for the first playoff goal of his career.
The Canucks managed only 15 shots, but until Havlat's late goal, it looked like Hordichuk's tally might be enough -- especially with Luongo at the top of his game. After allowing eight goals in the two games at Vancouver, Luongo gave up just one in Game 3 and looked on his way to a shutout before Havlat tied it.
"A huge comeback for us. We're right back in the series now," Quenneville said. "It looked grim, but the enthusiasm was in the right places." Instead of going to Vancouver having to win to keep their season alive, the Hawks will visit G.M. Place hoping to take the lead in the best-of-7 series.
"We shouldn't be satisfied with anything that took place tonight," Quenneville said. "The challenge going forward is even higher and tougher and more challenging. There's some confidence you can gain out of the game, but we know we're going into a tough building. We know we've got a tough team to play against, that checks well."
Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell could sense something good was going to happen when his team left the ice to a standing ovation following the third period.
"I knew somebody was going to be the hero," Campbell said. "That's basically what it comes down to. It was going to be in this room; somehow and someway, we're going to find it, and you can almost say we had two heroes in here with the way (Khabibulin) played in the end and then Andrew (Ladd) scoring the big goal. We stuck together and fought hard and I'm very proud of this team."
The Hawks have the resiliency that champions have to have -- they're now 4-2 in the postseason when allowing the game's first goal -- but Quenneville said he'd rather try playing Game 5 from in front than spend another evening playing catch-up against one of the NHL's best shutdown teams.
"They prevented us from doing what we'd like to have done," Quenneville said. "That's why we try to emphasize scoring first. I think we've been behind just about every game except Games 5 and 6 (in the first round) of the Calgary series. I guess we're accustomed to playing in this situation, but it's not healthy and it's not the right way for success."
After blocking his first shot of the game and third of the playoffs, 24-year-old Rick Rypien skated the length of the ice and did a spin-o-rama after crossing the Chicago blue line before feeding Darcy Hordichuk, who was barreling down the slot to snap a scoreless tie with 11:28 left in the second period. It was Hordichuk's first career playoff goal and Rypien's first career playoff point.
Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler was a tower on strength in the absence of top-four defenseman Sami Salo, who was scratched with a lower-body injury. Edler led his team in ice time (28:34) on 32 shifts, including 1:56 with his team shorthanded. In Game 3, Canucks defender Kevin Bieksa totaled a game-high 27:54 of ice time.
With less than five minutes remaining in the first period, both teams put on quite a display of bone-crunching body checks to the delight of the 22,682 in attendance. The clubs traded hit for hit in a span of 2:31 without a single whistle, with the Blackhawks totaling seven of the nine crunches. The order went at follows: Canucks' Mason Raymond on Matt Walker; Hawks' Andrew Ladd on Henrik Sedin; Hawks' Ben Eager on Ryan Johnson; Hawks' Adam Burish on Ossi Vaananen; Hawks' Eager on Mattias Ohlund; Hawks' Brian Campbell on Taylor Pyatt; Canucks' Steve Bernier on Matt Walker; Hawks' Patrick Sharp on Kevin Bieksa, Hawks' Dustin Byfuglien on Alex Edler.
The teams combined for 30 hits in the first period alone, with Chicago holding a 17-13 advantage.
The Blackhawks have scored 7 of their 12 goals in this series in the third period. They have yet to light the lamp in the first period against Canucks keeper Roberto Luongo in four games.
Forwards Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien continue to use their bodies in the most effective way possible. Brouwer finished the night with seven hits and Byfuglien with six. Byfuglien entered the game with 37 hits while Brouwer had 23.