Blackhawks’ strong effort confined to 2nd period as Golden Knights win Game 2 in overtime

The Hawks rallied back from a two-goal deficit, but eventually succumbed to an onslaught of Vegas attacks in the third period and overtime.

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Reilly Smith’s goal gave the Knights a 4-3 win Thursday and a 2-0 series lead.

Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The Blackhawks played extremely well for one period and poorly for 2½ others in Game 2 of their best-of-seven playoff series Thursday night in Edmonton.

That mixed-bag effort was enough to carry the Hawks through regulation but not enough to stop the heavily favored Golden Knights from eventually winning, with forward Reilly Smith scoring 7:13 into overtime to give the Knights a 4-3 victory and a 2-0 series lead.

The blown opportunity left the Hawks muttering for the rest of the night about what might have been.

“Would have been nice to see something go in there in overtime, but it’s the way it goes, I guess,” winger Patrick Kane said. “Would have been nice to have a better third period, too, especially after we came back to tie it up and had a lot of momentum. Would have been nice to keep that momentum.”

The Hawks’ comeback in the second period — the momentum Kane referred to — was undeniably impressive.

They made brilliant use of the long change to stretch the normally stingy Knights into playing more open, transition hockey. They out-attempted the Knights 23-20 in the second, out-chanced them 14-12 and outscored them 3-1. They looked, albeit briefly, every bit the Knights’ equal.

“I really liked our first two periods,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We showed a lot of character to battle back a couple different times. It’s important not to give [the Knights] extra chances to have zone time, so when we were clean with it and able to advance it and drive it deep into the offensive zone — get a forecheck going, get zone time — we had some success.”

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Dylan Strome celebrates his game-tying goal in the second period.

Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

But going into the third period — and later overtime — tied 3-3, the Hawks weren’t able to rediscover their intensity.

The Knights out-attempted the Hawks 36-16, out-chanced them 21-8 and eventually outscored them 1-0 over the final 27 minutes.

While goalie Corey Crawford, after shaking off another disconcerting start, did well to hold off what center Kirby Dach later described as “waves” of Knights attacks, he couldn’t singlehandedly save the game.

“For whatever reason, it just seemed like they came out better than us in the third,” Kane said. “I don’t know if we thought it was going to be a little easier than it was.”

Colliton ran the Hawks’ depth chart through a blender before the game, most notably scratching defenseman Adam Boqvist for fellow rookie Lucas Carlsson.

Some changes clicked; others did not. Unfortunately, Carlsson’s new pairing with Connor Murphy fell into the latter category.They miscommunicated twice with disastrous results, getting caught below the goal line on Paul Statsny’s goal in the first period and leaving Smith wide open in the slot on the game-winner.

“We weren’t able to get the puck in and get it deep and get our ‘D’ off, so you end up with tired guys trying to defend, and we had a breakdown,” Colliton said.

In a normal series, the underdog Hawks would now return to home ice for Game 3, looking for a much-needed boost from the United Center crowd.

But it won’t be so in the Edmonton bubble format. Game 3 will be back at Rogers Place on Saturday night, when the Hawks will need a heroic team effort to turn the series around.

“The key is, how long can we stick with it?” Colliton said. “How long can we be persistent when we face adversity? We’ve faced some adversity here over the first couple of games, and do we have the character to overcome it?”

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