When are we going to learn?
When are we going to learn that these Blackhawks don’t go away easily, regardless of how fast the sky seems to be falling?
In a span of 37 hockey seconds Saturday night, the Hawks’ world had been reduced to a hellscape. They did get the number of the asteroid that hit them: 17 (Ryan Kesler), 39 (Matt Beleskey) and 10 (Corey Perry). Those are the Ducks who scored goals in that blink of a third-period stretch, turning a 3-1 Hawks’ lead into a 4-3 Anaheim advantage.
So it was over, right? The Blackhawks were dead and ready for burial in the Western Conference final, right? The Ducks would be heading back to Anaheim with a 3-1 series advantage, correct? Doom, say hello to gloom, and all that?
First Patrick Kane tied the game, setting the stage for one overtime and then a second overtime. Why the overtimes? Because these are the Hawks and sometimes they make you work for it.
Finally, after the two teams traded hits and excellent scoring opportunities, Antoine Vermette scored on a rebound of his own shot with 14 minutes, 23 seconds left in the second overtime, giving the Hawks a 5-4 victory. The series is tied. And anything can happen now.
“When we get into late overtime periods, I think we just have a feeling as a group that we’re going to find a way to win,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said.
The doubters were left to their shame.
Has anybody paid attention to the Hawks’ resolve over the last seven seasons? They don’t cave in. There don’t go away without a fight. They have been known to heal themselves.
Not even that three-goal barrage could kill them.
“I think a lot of teams wouldn’t feel too good about themselves,’’ said Toews, who had a goal and an assist. “I think we did a great job of just collecting ourselves and staying calm and knowing it is what it is and you can’t change that. You’ve got to move forward and you’ve got to find a way to get yourself back in the game.
“…I think we had the character and poise to relax and calm ourselves down and make a game of it and find a way to get back into it.’’
This is the franchise that roared back from a three-games-to-nothing deficit in 2011 to take No. 1-seeded Vancouver to a seventh game, before losing in overtime. In 2013, the Hawks were down three games to one to Detroit and won that series. Doubt them at your own risk.
Lots of people, including some players, had painted Game 4 as a must-win game for the Hawks. No. Whether they won or lost, they would to go to Anaheim for Game 5 and give themselves every opportunity to win. That’s how they operate.
Blackhawks fans worry about the Blackhawks, excessively and to distraction. You’d think that the team would have earned the benefit of the doubt with two Stanley Cups and five Western Conference finals in seven seasons. But, no. They get down 2-1 in the series and Game 4 is viewed as a referendum on their ability to stay alive.
The Ducks’ three-goal ambush should have done in the Hawks. It didn’t. Try to remember that during Game 5.
The action in the first overtime was furious. Both teams had excellent scoring opportunities. Both the Ducks’ Frederic Andersen and the Hawks’ Corey Crawford played well in net. If fatigue was an issue, it was hard to tell. Too much was on the line to be tired.
The second overtime was even more frenetic. Andrew Shaw had two close-in scoring chances, hitting the post once. Patrick Sharp had a breakaway and shot it into Andersen’s left leg pad.
And then came Vermette.
This is the same Antoine Vermette who had been unceremoniously scratched in Game 3. Teuvo Teravainen, another odd scratch Thursday, had an assist on the goal. That’s how players answer an unfortunate coaching decision.
Vermette didn’t want to dwell on Joel Quenneville’s decision to sit him in Game 3.
“The main focus is about the team’s success, and that’s all that matters,’’ he said. “I’m glad we won.’’
Win they did. Believe it or not.