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Hawks make another comeback, even series

by Derek Jory

Derek Jory | Correspondent

Often down but never out, the Chicago Blackhawks seem to get a kick out of comebacks.

In Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinal against the Vancouver Canucks, the Blackhawks climbed out of a three-goal hole only to give up a late score and an empty-netter in a 5-3 Canucks win.

Game 2 was following the same script, with Vancouver up 2-0 after the first period thanks to a pair of power-play goals, but when Chicago sparked a comeback on this night they followed it through to the end, winning 6-3.

Ironically enough, the same innocence and eagerness that shot the Blackhawks in the foot in Game 1 was what led to their rally in Game 2.

"People talk about us being young and inexperienced and I think that may be exactly it, we’re too naive or we’re too dumb or we’re too green to know that we’re in a bad position," said forward Adam Burish, who had two assists in Game 2.

This was the fifth time Chicago has come back to erase a deficit in its last eight games, and the third time the Blackhawks have held on for the win. In the other two games, they erased three-goal deficits before ultimately falling.

The tides turned in this tilt midway through the second period when Patrick Sharp threw the Hawks on his back and scored two goals to tie things up.

Just 3:20 after Sharp's second goal of the game and fifth of the postseason, Dave Bolland scored a beautiful shorthanded breakaway goal that despite not standing as the game-winner, put the Hawks ahead to stay and really was the biggest blow to the Canucks.

The play started with a heads-up pass from defenseman Duncan Keith who flipped the puck down the ice from the hashmarks to the left of Nikolai Khabibulin in the Chicago zone.

The puck couldn’t get to Bolland quick enough, as he was a step behind two Canucks. He gloved it at the Vancouver blue line and marched in on Roberto Luongo.

A backhand and forehand deke later and Chicago had its first lead of the series.

"I think he was just trying to get it out and I just tried to stay a little high making sure that if he did throw it down there I could get a chance at it, and it was a great play by him," said Bolland.

From there the Blackhawks beat Luongo twice more and added an empty-netter in the third period, while Henrik Sedin scored a late goal for the Canucks.

In coming back to upend Vancouver and even the best-of-7 series at 1-1, the Blackhawks displayed veteran poise and knowhow far beyond what the team was thought capable of.

Sharp, who finished the game with two goals on seven shots alongside a plus-1 rating, doesn’t think his team enjoys having to claw its way back in games, but it's nice to know they can.

"We’re a confident team and we know that despite the score, we’re still in any hockey game and it was nice to have the ability to come back again tonight," Sharp said, adding that he hopes Chicago doesn’t make a habit of trailing every game.

"Against a team like Vancouver you don’t want to spot them too many two- or three-goal leads, that’s for sure. We’ll celebrate this one; we’ll enjoy it and get ready for the next one."

Forgetting this game is a must for the Canucks if they hope to head into Chicago and steal a game.

Giving up a split on home ice isn’t the end of the world; it just seems like it because Vancouver was riding an eight-game winning streak, dating back to the regular season.

The way the Canucks lost is a little defeating. You never want to blow sizeable leads in back-to-back games, let alone in the postseason.

"In the playoffs you hope that if you’re up 3-0 or 2-0 you should be a little bit tighter defensively," Henrik Sedin said.

Capitals/Penguins Playoff Gear Blackhawks Gear Canucks Gear "But they are really an extremely skilled team and we know it’s going to be these kinds of games. Our power play worked really well tonight. If you score two or three on the power play you should win games."

The Canucks finished 2-for-5 on the power play, while the Blackhawks also scored twice on the man advantage, finishing 2-for-9.

Once the Blackhawks started to rally, the Canucks couldn’t keep pace. They collectively fell apart with everyone from Luongo, who hadn’t given up five goals in regulation since a 7-6 shootout loss to Anaheim last October, to Ryan Kesler, who was a minus-2, missing his usual edge.

"We had a loss tonight and we have to bounce back as a group and that means everyone playing better defensively including our forwards," Mats Sundin said.

"We’ve got to take care of our own end and do a better job there. That’s the bottom line and that’s where we have to start."

Dave Bolland wasn’t on the ice long before taking a Hail Mary pass from Duncan Keith and scoring his third career shorthanded goal. It didn’t stand as the game-winner, but it put the Blackhawks in front to stay and it was a beauty.

After giving up two goals on the first five shots he faced, Nikolai Khabibulin buckled down and stopped all 15 shots he faced the rest of the game.

Vancouver had defeated Chicago in every game this season, both regular season and playoffs, when it recorded a power-play goal. That came to an end in Game 2, despite Sami Salo and Alex Edler tallying special-teams goals for the Canucks.

The plus-minus battle was heavily one-sided on this night, with Chicago finishing a plus-24 to Vancouver’s minus-26.

Talk about coming out strong. The Canucks have only allowed one first period goal this postseason. Roberto Luongo has 17 first period saves through two games.

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