Rozner: Blackhawks survive an epic thriller

  • Members of the Blackhawks celebrate Marcus Kruger's game-winning goal during third overtime period in Game 2 of the Western Conference final during the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs in Anaheim, Calif.

    Members of the Blackhawks celebrate Marcus Kruger's game-winning goal during third overtime period in Game 2 of the Western Conference final during the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs in Anaheim, Calif. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/20/2015 2:40 PM

Sudden death? More like sudden life.

The Blackhawks were outplayed, outhit, outshot, outworked and out of gas, but a favorable bounce in the longest game in franchise history gave the Hawks a reason to believe again.

 

Only Corey Crawford saved them through 116 minutes of hockey when he resembled the Stanley Cup Crawford of 2013, and then Brent Seabrook shot one in off Marcus Kruger and the Hawks survived a triple-overtime thriller.

The 3-2 victory ended at 1:08 a.m. Wednesday (Chicago time) and tied the Western Conference finals at 1-1, a fate the Hawks hardly deserved.

But as the great poet William Munny was wont to say, "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it."

All that matters now is the Hawks are coming home tied up and with a chance to make this a very long series.

"We played hard throughout the whole thing," Crawford said. "They had some that went off the post. Both sides were so close so many times. Just a great hockey game."

It was, indeed, a great hockey game.

It was epic. It was one of those that people will remember forever, regardless of how the series resolves.

It lasted five hours in real time and nearly two full games of hockey time, and the Ducks were the better team for most of it.

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The Hawks were within an inch of being in very serious trouble, down 2-0 in the series, when the Ducks hit a post and a crossbar in the first overtime and another crossbar in double OT.

But just that suddenly, the Hawks are alive and relatively well, having stolen home ice with a Game 2 victory.

"It was a weird play," Crawford said. "I don't even know where it hit Kruger, but it was sure nice to see the red light go on."

The Hawks are beat and beat up, but rather than a depressing flight home lacking confidence and staring at a big hole, they're right in the series and could turn it on in Chicago.

"I just saw the puck coming and tried to get to the net," Kruger said. "I got lucky. I'm not sure where it hit me."

Things change fast in an NHL playoff series and all it would take is a good first period on Thursday and the Hawks will remember that they've won a pair of Stanley Cups and they are as good as any team in hockey.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And just that quickly they can have the Ducks wondering what it takes to put away a team that simply will not go away regardless of who has had the better of the play.

The best news for the Hawks is they'll get the last line change at home the next two games and that will be huge for Jonathan Toews, as he tries to escape the nasty clutches of Ryan Kesler.

It's harder for Patrick Kane because he simply doesn't have any help, and you have to hope Joel Quenneville will give him more to work with eventually, maybe a Patrick Sharp or Teuvo Teravainen, because what he's playing with now is doing nothing to help the effort.

Through two games, Toews and Kane have a combined 1 point and 13 shots in what amounts to three full games.

"Everyone's working hard," said Johnny Oduya, who played 46:06. "When the big guys get a lot of attention, that sometimes leaves room for other guys."

The Hawks were outshot 62-56, and at least 10 of those were brilliant Anaheim chances in the three overtimes when Crawford stood on his head.

They were outhit 71-45, and at least three of those were monster hits on Kruger, who lived to fight another day.

They were outplayed in all six periods, but the only number that matters now is the final score.

"We know it's just one game," Oduya said. "Actually, it was almost two games, but it only counts as one."

Duncan Keith played 49:51, Brent Seabrook 47:56 and Niklas Hjalmarsson 47:35, while Kyle Cumiskey and Kimmo Timonen played a combined 35:19.

The lack of depth on defense was the story before the series and it will be after, no matter how this plays out.

"It's a huge relief to win," Oduya said. "You feel a little less tired when you win one of these, and a little more tired when you lose one."

Game 2 was a furious combination of hitting and speed and these teams will be hard-pressed to maintain this pace for seven games -- or eight, if you will.

How long the series lasts, however, will be determined largely by how long the Hawks can survive a brutal beating, or whether the Ducks mistakenly get in a track meet with the Hawks.

But the Hawks must simplify their breakout. There's not always a first past or a perfect pass and flipping it out and regrouping is sometimes the best option against a team that can hem you in the way the Ducks can.

And since the Hawks' defense can't handle the Anaheim cycle, they've been forced to bring centers back below the goal line to help out, which also slows the offense.

It will not get easier or any less physical in the games ahead.

But today, none of it matters. Today is for rest. Tomorrow is another day. And that day will come quickly.

That's what happens when you play two games in one night.

• 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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