The Blackhawks have had more than their share of magical moments over the last three playoff seasons, adding another one to the scrapbook Sunday night at the United Center.
It was a Game 6 dripping with drama from the start of warmups, when the Canucks revealed they would start Cory Schneider and not Roberto Luongo in goal. The Hawks forced a deciding Game 7 on Tuesday night in Vancouver when rookie Ben Smith banged home a rebound at 15:30 of overtime for a 4-3 victory.
The Hawks have climbed all the way out of the 3-0 hole they dug for themselves and now are looking to become the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after dropping the first three games.
There's no reason now to think they won't complete the job.
“We feel so much in control,” said Hawks center Dave Bolland, who had a goal and an assist and has become the kind of difference maker Luongo foolishly proclaimed earlier in the series he couldn't be. “The momentum is high and everything is going our way.”
Much of the overtime went Vancouver's way, but great work by Marian Hossa with the puck set up Smith's winner.
Hossa got the puck to Niklas Hjalmarsson in the high slot for a shot that hit Luongo high and dropped at the skates of Smith for the rebound goal.
That's right, it was Luongo around for the finish after Schneider had to leave the game with leg cramps after allowing Michael Frolik's penalty-shot goal at 2:31 of the third period that made it 3-3.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault decided Saturday he would turn to Schneider because he said he felt it gave his team the best chance to win.
“We felt Cory could give us a good game,” said Vigneault, who wouldn't reveal his starter for Tuesday's winner-take-all Game 7.
The Hawks didn't play their greatest game, but they dug deep and found a way.
“It was an unbelievable effort from the boys,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We kept going down 1 goal, but we stuck with it. Big penalty-shot goal by Frolik that kept us in the game, and we were just looking for that one break, and we got it.
“We just kept telling ourselves in the locker room and on the bench that it was going to be a really good feeling in here if we found a way to pull it out.” Canucks opinionated defenseman Kevin Bieksa called the winner a lucky goal, but it was Smith who outworked Christian Ehrhoff and Andrew Alberts in front.
For Smith — a hero who has emerged from out of nowhere for the Hawks — it was his third goal of the series.
“I got a small piece of (Hjalmarsson's) shot and it forced (Luongo) to fight it off a little more,” Smith said. “The puck was just laying there, so I just turned and whacked at it.
“It all starts with the guys in this room. Nobody has quit; nobody has talked about quitting. We kept working hard every day and fought back in this series. Now anything can happen up in Vancouver.”
It's going to be up to the Canucks on Tuesday to either embrace having Game 7 on home ice or they're going to succumb to the pressure of not being able to put the Hawks away before now.
“Sometimes it takes all your lifelines to earn a million dollars,” Bieksa said. “That's where we're at right now. We've used our three lifelines. It's do or die right now.”
No matter what happens in Game 7, which will be the Hawks' first since 1995, they've shown the heart of a champion in this series.
“They're the Stanley Cup champions,” Vigneault said. “They're a great hockey team.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.