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updated: 4/24/2014 1:05 AM

Blackhawks dig deep, live to see another day

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  • Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane lines up his game-winning goal against the Blues in overtime of Game 4 late Wednesday at the United Center. Their first-round playoff series returns to St. Louis knotted at 2-2.

      Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane lines up his game-winning goal against the Blues in overtime of Game 4 late Wednesday at the United Center. Their first-round playoff series returns to St. Louis knotted at 2-2.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

With their season teetering on the brink, staring directly at a 3-1 series deficit and an end to their hopes of repeating as Stanley Cup champs, the Blackhawks once again dug deep.

It is the hallmark of this championship team that they do nothing easy, that they must seemingly be pushed to the brink before they push back.

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"Yeah, when it's do-or-die, everybody steps up," said Bryan Bickell. "When we need something, there's a lot of character on this team and we find it."

With under four minutes remaining in regulation and trailing by a goal, the Hawks were forced to simplify -- and in the postseason, simplicity is the most consistent weapon known to hockey players.

Marian Hossa shoveled a puck to Michal Rozsival at the point, and rather than look for the perfect play -- as the Hawks had done much of the night -- Rozsival simply threw it at the net, where Jonathan Toews and Bickell were screening Ryan Miller.

With great position, Bickell posted up, got his hands free and put a backhand deflection past Miller for a 3-3 tie at 16:08 of the third, Bickell's first point of the series.

"To tell the truth, I always get picked on for not shooting enough," Rozsival said with a smile. "This time, I took the shot. Great deflection by Bickell. Huge goal for us. Great shift by the forwards down low being strong on puck."

The Hawks then dominated the extra session and Patrick Kane's brilliant goal gave the Hawks a 4-3 victory and new life at the UC Wednesday night with the series tied at 2-2, heading to St. Louis for Game 5 Friday night.

"In overtime, I think we pretty much owned it," said goaltender Corey Crawford. "We were all over them, chance after chance. Great play by Kaner."

Kane was flying in overtime, skating his best three minutes since he tore his MCL last month. Through the first three-plus games, he was pretty much a nonfactor, but he took over the extra period and carried the Hawks to a huge victory.

"I felt like every game I got a little bit better, whether that's timing or getting used to playing in the playoffs again," Kane said. "Whatever it may be, I just try to keep getting better and better every game."

Kane was the best player in the rink in overtime and if he's starting to find his legs again, that's very big news for the Hawks.

"You could see it coming. You could see he was starting to find it there," Bickell said of Kane. "His hands, his vision are coming back. He hit the crossbar a couple shifts right before that.

"You just felt like going down on that 3-on-3, something good was gonna happen."

The Hawks grabbed a 2-0 lead after Andrew Shaw scored a power-play goal and Kane buried a brilliant pass from Johnny Oduya.

But late in the second period Kane took a delay-of-game penalty that led to power-play goal by Vlad Tarasenko -- as Niklas Hjalmarsson and T.J. Oshie screened Crawford -- and following a turnover inside their own blueline in the final seconds, Max Lapierre fired a puck off Crawford and in for the 2-2 tie with under four seconds remaining.

"It was an unlucky play to get a (delay) penalty from a guy (Kane) who makes plays all over the ice for us," Crawford said. "Tough to give up those goals right at the end of the period, especially the second one. Pretty brutal to get that bounce right there."

And with only seven minutes left in regulation, Tarasenko beat Crawford short side on a 2-on-1 and the Hawks went into total desperation mode for the first time since the Stanley Cup Final last June.

"It's crazy how momentum plays a huge part in the playoffs," Crawford said. "We were able to hold them off in the third, but they got that 2-on-1 goal and I don't think it fazed us at all.

"Actually, it was almost a turning point for us. We got a bunch of scoring chances after that and a great tip by Bicksy."

The Hawks poured it on in OT and played their best hockey of the series, after what would have to be considered their best three periods of the series.

Now they are the team with confidence and it's the Blues feeling the pressure, knowing they can't return to Chicago for Game 6 down 3-2 in the series.

"We find ways to win," Rozsival said. "It doesn't have to be pretty."

Wednesday in overtime, it certainly was.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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