The Hawks don’t ever quit — are we all clear on that now?

SHARE The Hawks don’t ever quit — are we all clear on that now?

There’s no overstating how dead the Blackhawks looked in the first period Monday night. Cadaver dead. Dead-horse dead. Deader-than-dead dead.

All that.

But your dead is the Hawks’ hibernation. Somehow, some way, they woke up from a nightmare of a game to force overtime against the Ducks. They had no business doing that, and the only explanation for it is that these are the Hawks, with all the toughness and resolve that goes with it.

Matt Beleskey scored off a rebound 45 seconds into overtime to give Anaheim a 5-4 victory and a 3-2 series lead. There are no moral victories in hockey. But there are stirring defeats. And Game 5 of the Western Conference final was one of them.

Jonathan Toews scored two goals in a span of 1:12 after the Hawks had pulled Corey Crawford to gain an extra attacker. Anyone paying attention to this series knew what that meant: Overtime. Game 2 had gone three overtimes. Game 4 had gone two overtimes. All over Chicago on Monday night, people settled in for sleep deprivation.

Toews’ second goal, which came with 38 seconds left in the game, came from an impossible angle. To the right of Frederic Andersen, he slid a shot that hit the inside of the goalie’s left skate and into the net.

There was no shame in the Hawks’ loss. There was head-scratching over how they could start so badly, but the lasting image from this game was how deep they dipped into their emotional and physical well to come back from a 3-0 deficit.

There’s something to be said for that, something lasting, something that will help them in Game 6 Wednesday at the United Center.

In the first period, the Hawks seemed to be lacking a pulse and legs, which are kind of important in hockey. Two of the first three shots Crawford faced ended up in the net. Coach Joel Quenneville called a timeout. No matter. Sami Vetanen scored to make it 3-0.

The Hawks didn’t get their first shot until 16 minutes, 20 seconds of the first period had elapsed, mostly because they couldn’t get the puck out their own zone. They looked tired, beaten up, worn down.

What, you worry? Maybe a little.

But the Hawks have been here before, again and again, and the Ducks haven’t, or at least not as much. Until proven otherwise, that counts for a lot. Too many fans and media members have forgotten that simple notion, an easy thing to do with a long, 82-game schedule, lots of media outlets and too much airtime and space to fill. It’s easy to lose your way in a season with ups and downs. You lose sight of the bigger picture, which, in the case of the Hawks, is huge: This is their fifth conference final in the past seven seasons.

So it was almost impossible to picture them falling apart after Anaheim had scored three goals in the first period Monday. They didn’t.

“That’s a good team,’’ Beleskey said after the game. “You know they’re going to come back. They’re going to come back hard.’’

As if for proof, Hawks rookie Teuvo Teravainen scored on a no-look wrist shot early in the second period to cut the lead to 3-1. With 25 seconds left in the period, he made a beautiful pass from behind the net to Brent Seabrook, who beat Andersen to make it 3-2.

These Hawks don’t quit ever. I think we’re all clear on that now.

Even when Anaheim’s Patrick Maroon scored to widen the margin to 4-2 in the third, the Hawks had done too much right to make anyone believe the game was over. They had made the Ducks go long stretches without a shot on net. They had kept moving, had not let up. And then came Toews’ goals.

Now, it’s possible we’re witnessing a passing of the baton, the way we did when Michael Jordan and the Bulls finally overcame Detroit’s Bad Boys in the 1991 Eastern Conference final — after the Pistons had knocked them out the playoffs the three previous seasons. Anaheim lost in seven games in the conference semis last season to the eventual champion Kings.

But until the Ducks can make it to the next round, the Hawks are still the franchise that has won two of the past five Stanley Cups, with many of the core players still on the roster. The Ducks might be up 3-2 in the series, but what they’re up against is massive.


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