-- It was a situation almost identical to one that happened to Kris Versteeg
in Game 4 that ultimately led to a Philadelphia goal.
Skating with the puck in the Flyers zone after an outlet pass from Brent Seabrook
, Versteeg worked his way into a position just inside the right circle to put a good shot on goalie Michael Leighton
. All that stood between him and Leighton was James van Riemsdyk
, and up in the stands people were begging him to shoot.
It seemed like Versteeg held the puck forever on the blade of his stick, like he'd done in Game 4 when he failed to get a shot off. This time, though, Versteeg pulled the trigger and ripped the puck past Leighton for his sixth goal of the postseason and a 3-0 Hawks lead with 1:45 left in the first period.
"It was a great outlet pass by 'Seabsie' and then I just kind of cut across," Versteeg said. "I guess the shot got lucky and felt good and went in."
He was reminded of what some critics had pointed out about him holding the puck too long at times, but Versteeg was hearing none of it.
"That's why I don't read your (stories)," he said, quickly taking the next question.
Point taken, but also point scored for the Hawks -- who probably wouldn't mind if Versteeg decided to fire a few more on net every once in awhile. On a night when the chorus of the Fratellis' "Chelsea Dagger" never seemed to end, it was Versteeg's dagger near the end of the first period that really put the Flyers in a bind.
"It was huge," Hawks center John Madden
said. "He played extremely well. He let a nice shot go there."
Would Madden like to see Versteeg launch a few more well-placed lasers in this series?
Short answer: Yes … most likely. Well, sort of.
"With a shot like his, you know … sometimes he likes to handle that puck and he's real good at that," Madden said, smiling. "He's had a lot of success, so I'm not going to tell him how to play hockey. He's done pretty well so far. Hopefully he continues to do the same."
If he does, the Hawks offense should continue to be a nightmare for a Flyers defense that felt confident things had swung in its favor after tying the series 2-2 in Game 4. Sunday the Flyers ran straight into a buzz saw powered not just by star names but also somewhat overlooked guys like Versteeg.
It was a brand of hockey that people had gotten used to seeing in United Center all season, but hadn't really seen yet in this series -- despite a nervous effort in the opener won 6-5 by the Hawks.
"I don't think it was really that free-wheeling," Versteeg said. "We played a structured game tonight. When we're structured, and skating the puck hard and making plays we're a dangerous team."
They're also fun to watch.
"It was another one of those roller-coaster games where they kind of kept coming back," Versteeg said. "But both teams are resilient and have been resilient throughout the playoffs. There was a lot of fun hockey out there."