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After scratch, Vermette happy to help Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com

CHICAGO -- Antoine Vermette hadn't had much fun with the Chicago Blackhawks until the second overtime of Game 4 of the Western Conference Final at United Center on Saturday.

After being a healthy scratch Thursday in a Game 3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Vermette scored the game-winning goal 5:37 into double overtime for a 5-4 win that evened the best-of-7 series at 2-2.

Game 5 is at Honda Center on Monday (9 p.m.; NBCSN; CBC; TVA Sports).

Left wing Patrick Sharp sent a pass from behind the Ducks net to Vermette, whose shot from the slot was blocked by Ducks forward Rickard Rakell. Vermette pounced on the loose puck and sent it into the net past goalie Frederik Andersen.

Vermette slid to the corner, pumped his fists and celebrated his second goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, also his second since coming to Chicago prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. He didn't score in 19 regular-season games with the Blackhawks after leaving the Arizona Coyotes.

"I think overall on that shift, we talk about our speed, and I think we are effective when we move our feet," Vermette said. "I think that was an illustration of that. We get the puck going in their end a little bit. We stuck with it. ... Lucky enough we got it back and put it in."

It was a big relief for Vermette.

"Emotion, in the corner, it was pretty fun," he said. "This is a fun group. We had a good celebration. Hopefully we can do that again."

Vermette had a lot of pent-up emotion coming into the game.

He and rookie forward Teuvo Teravainen were scratched from the 2-1 loss in Game 3 after they teamed with Sharp in the second round to form a good puck-possession line against the Minnesota Wild. Vermette, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, didn't hide his displeasure about being scratched after playing the first two games against Anaheim.

His comments Friday were brief after watching Game 3 on television while working out in the locker room. Anaheim took a 2-1 series lead and made Game 4 a must-win according to several Chicago players.

Vermette said he felt he and his line played a solid game in the Blackhawks' triple-overtime win in Game 2 on Tuesday and didn't think Teravainen or he should have been replaced by Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom. Vindication came for each on the winning goal, with Teravainen starting the play by getting the puck to Sharp for the pass to Vermette.

"The emotion [of being scratched], it's not a pleasant one," Vermette said. "As a proud competitor, like anybody else on this team, you want to be part of the team. You think you can help the team. I think that's a natural emotion to get. At the same time, [I'm] very supportive of the group. [Hopefully] we get a couple more wins here."

Vermette finished with two shots on goal, two hits and won 70 percent of his faceoffs (14 of 20). His line was on the ice in the third period when Decks forward Matt Beleskey tied the game at 3-3 before Anaheim took a 4-3 lead 14 seconds later.

"They're so competitive," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who took some criticism for his decision to sit Vermette and Teravainen. "They want to play in the worst way and they want more ice time as well. You can understand where [Vermette] was at. Very disappointed. He's a great pro. Stayed with it. That line had a couple looks in overtime. I'm glad he finished it for us."

Vermette is not the only Blackhawks player who has been scratched from the lineup, and he won't be the last.

"Even within games, sometimes we'll have a couple lines that maybe go through spurts where they don't see the ice very much," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "That's a really tough thing to play through, when you finally are thrown out there, the game is fast, intense, every single play matters, you've got to find a way to play through that and make smart plays.

"So it's a huge testament to the guy sitting next to me (Vermette) and some other individuals in our locker room that are putting their own ego, their own wants and needs aside, and are ready for those opportunities when they do come."

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