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Between The Dots: Series shaping up

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks

Chopping the puck into pieces.

That’s how Patrick Sharp described the manner in which the Blackhawks commenced Monday night’s crucial Game Two against the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center, where 22,142 howled like werewolves during a takeoff that had to be seen to be bereaved.

“For a day and a half, we were talking about what went wrong in the first game…and then we come out like that tonight,” said Sharp. “The crowd was upset with us, and rightly so. I don’t think it’s because we weren’t ready, though. Other way around -- we overworked it; trying too hard. Our coach…Joel (Quenneville)…we’re going to give him a heart attack, I’m afraid, before this series is over.”

This series is not over, and in fact is beginning to gain some traction, but only because the Blackhawks arose from a brutal five-minute torpor to defeat the Canucks, 4-2, and forge a 1-1 situation in a best-of-seven that resumes in Vancouver Wednesday night. Kris Versteeg bagged the winner late in a three-goal third period, but it was Sharp who electrified nervous fans with a shorthanded tally to make it 2-2. Sharp won possession along the boards, and then took it upon himself finish it off against Roberto Luongo, who saw increasing signs of life among the opposition.

“Enough is enough,” Sharp went on. “That’s pretty much how we felt after that start.”              

Indeed, the late arriving Blackhawks were down 2-0 even before thirsts were quenched in the always bustling 300 level. With three red jerseys within spitting distance of goalie Antyi Niemi, Mason Raymond jammed the puck in at 1:22. After Kevin Bieska’s bid was stopped by Niemi, then a post, the Canucks doubled their margin at 5:02, exactly the one-minute anniversary of the Blackhawks’ second consecutive penalty for delay of game. If only the Blackhawks really could have delayed the game. Mikael Samuelsson converted Henrik Sedin’s pass through three Blackhawks, and to say that the crowd was stunned would be a polite way of saying the crowd was angry.

But the Blackhawks, who cannot seem to muster a complete game these days, at least attoned. Brent Seabrook, who had a big game, beat Luongo, the giant Vancouver goalie. He pretty much had his way in Game One, but Monday night the Blackhawks gradually introduced themselves with some up-close and personal visits. Dave Bolland got in Luongo’s kitchen, then Adam Burish and Ben Eager—back in the lineup to provide energy—arrived on Luongo’s doorstep like  synchronized pests, screeching to a halt so as to spray hello.

Well Before Sharp’s shorthanded tally—he almost had another a bit later on—he stung Luongo with a shot that appeared to strike him in the collar bone. Luongo was busier than Saturday night; Niemi, as is his wont, made important saves when he had to. That 2-0 proposition shortly after the Star-Spangled Banner could have been 3-0 or 4-0.

“You’re seeing more physical stuff,” Sharp concluded, “and there was more talking back and forth between the two teams tonight. I think this will be an exciting series before it’s over.”

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