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Noel: Blackhawks' urgency paid off in series tie

by Mike G. Morreale /

For additional insight on the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, has enlisted the help of Claude Noel to break down the action. Noel will be checking in throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Noel was coach for the Winnipeg Jets from 2011-14 and interim coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009-10. He also coached many years in the minor leagues, including the American Hockey League. In addition, Noel, a former forward, had 138 points in 353 regular-season games in the AHL and played seven games in the NHL with Washington Capitals in 1979-80.

The Chicago Blackhawks had a performance of perseverance and a will to get the job done in a 5-4 double overtime victory against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday at United Center.

That's what Claude Noel took away from the win that evened the best-of-7 series 2-2. Game 5 is at Honda Center on Monday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"The game was not for the faint of heart," Noel said. "It was heavy, intense and everybody was playing and there was no let up. One of the quotes you hear all the time around the NHL is that you need your best players to be the best players, and you witnessed that. There was a lot of urgency on Chicago's part because they wanted to tie that series.

"The way they did it was pretty incredible."

Chicago has won all four games in which it has gone to overtime during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Anaheim is 2-3.

It didn't look good for the Blackhawks, who allowed the Ducks to take a 4-3 lead in a span of 37 seconds in the third period. It marked the second-fastest three goals in playoff history; the Toronto Maple Leafs scored three goals in 23 seconds during the 1979 preliminary round.

But the Blackhawks tied the game on a power-play goal in the third by Patrick Kane at 12:39, before winning it on a goal by Antoine Vermette 5:37 into the second OT.

Vermette was a healthy scratch in Game 3.

"It's perseverance, not only for the way the Blackhawks kept at it but in the way Vermette went about his business," Noel said. "The Blackhawks get a nice lead [3-1], then fall behind, then tie it up and then a guy like Vermette comes in. He didn't play in [Game 3] and so he's trying to make some sort of contribution and in overtime he's able to do that. He showed the same type of heart that his team was playing with and it's a great storyline."

Noel said the win will go a long way in helping re-energize the Blackhawks entering Game 5 in Anaheim.

"If Anaheim won and went back home up 3-1 in the series, fatigue would probably have become a bigger factor for Chicago," Noel said. "The weight of the fatigue would have been a lot heavier if down 3-1. You can't imagine how taxing this is, people just don't realize. This is not an easy thing to do, but they are athletes and they will play through anything. I can tell you this, a week after this series they'll still be feeling the effects."

The Ducks outshot the Blackhawks 17-5 in the first overtime and also finished with 60 hits and 34 blocked shots, but the home team found a way.

"To me, Chicago's big players were playing so well," Noel said. "At some point you would have thought fatigue would become a factor. When you coach a team and have an advantage of weight, you wear down opponents and you don't do it for the second and third game, you do it for the sixth and seventh game. You invest. But both teams are playing heavy, so it's not like Chicago is not playing hard, they are going hit-for-hit with Anaheim and while there might have been some mental mistakes during that three-goal sequence, they still found a way."

Vermette, who scored his second goal of the playoffs and first in nine games, watched Game 3 from the dressing room while on a stationary bike and lifting weights. He became an instant hero in Chicago on Saturday.

"He's a veteran, seasoned guy," Noel said. "No player would be happy sitting out a playoff game. But I think he did the right thing. He didn't say very much about the benching. He wasn't happy about it, but he's the type of player who put the team ahead. He knows the coach has to make decisions for the team. I think it's great to see him score that goal because it makes you feel part of it. It's a weight off of you."

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