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Between The Dots: Hawks have flair for the dramatic

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks

GLENDALE, Ariz.—It wasn’t getting late just for fans back in Chicago. It was also getting late for the Blackhawks here in Arena Saturday night. And unlike Yogi Berra, who once noted that it’s getting late earlier than ever, the Blackhawks are getting later and later. The way they cost you sleep... it’s priceless.

“Good for the TV ratings,” reasoned Dave Bolland after Bryan Bickell scored his second goal of the game 10:36 into sudden death to culminate a 4-3 victory over the stunned Phoenix Coyotes and forge a 1-1 tie in the Stanley Cup Western Conference Quarterfinals series.

Adrian Aucoin, a former Blackhawk, was trying to rim the puck around and out of Phoenix territory when it struck Viktor Stalberg and careened to Bickell, who drilled the winner past goalie Mike Smith.

“Hit Viktor’s shin pad, right shin pad, all shin pad,” said Bickell. “Lucky bounce, but it’s not like we stole this game, I don’t think, because we had good chances.”

And because the Blackhawks would have it no other way, their last good chance in regulation resulted in a goal with 5.5 seconds remaining. That’s three playoff road contests in a row where they’ve scored long after last call at beer stands. Jonathan Toews did it in Game 7 at Vancouver one year ago, a contest the Blackhawks lost in overtime. Brent Seabrook did it here Thursday night with 15 seconds left. And Saturday night they really pushed the envelope. Seabrook, again, launched from long range and Patrick Sharp adroitly left the tip while Toews helped set the table down low.

Sharp’s redirect altered the angle of the puck, Smith missed it, banged his stick on the ice, and it was 3-3. On Bickell’s first goal of the game and Brandon Bollig’s first NHL goal ever, the Blackhawks trailed 3-2 after 40 minutes. They could have tied matters early in the third period but why? Why be boring? So they went almost half the session without even recording a shot, all the better to DRIVE YOU CRAZY. The Blackhawks might not be great with five skaters against four on a power play, but they are a ferocious with their net empty and six skaters against five.

The Blackhawks are the first team in NHL history to score tying goals with less than :15 in regulation in consecutive games of one series. The Blackhawks command that 60th minute as well as Andy Rooney ever did.

One never knows when a team will play a game now to be named later as an omen. Go back to the spring of 2010 when the Blackhawks were in a spot you wouldn’t wish on a leopard during Game 5 of their first round against the Nashville Predators, who had ample chances to keep the puck out of danger. Instead Patrick Kane found it, tallied a shorthander with 14 seconds remaining, and the Blackhawks won in overtime. About six weeks hence, somewhere along the Stanley Cup parade route in mid-June, the guys were saying how that surreal triumph on an April Saturday afternoon in the opening series might have been the most important one of all.

The Coyotes not only blew a tire so close to the finish line Saturday night, they saw home ice advantage disappear without two key components—Martin Hanzal and Lauri Korpikoski. Head Coach Joel Quenneville of the Blackhawks made only one roster change from Game 1—Sami Lepisto for Sean O’Donnell—but played Scrabble with his lineup thereafter. Q’s options were reduced when Andrew Shaw drew a five-minute charging major and game misconduct upon colliding with Smith at 7:11 of the middle period.

Smith was playing the puck behind his net when Shaw arrived. His left shoulder banged into the head of Smith, who went down in a heap of hurry. Doctors tended to him, the replay was shown several times on the video screen, and backup Jason Labarbera grabbed his mask. But Smith stayed in, and played well, as did Corey Crawford.

“I didn’t mean to hit him,” said Shaw. “I was actually trying to avoid him. I’m glad he wasn’t hurt.”

Game 3 is Tuesday night at the United Center at 8. That’s a late start,  just the way the Blackhawks like it.

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