Blackhawks outlast Ducks in longest game in franchise history


Blackhawks outlast Ducks in longest game in franchise history

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Marcus Kruger’s not the flashiest guy on the Blackhawks roster. But he is one of the hardest workers, whether he’s battling for pucks along the boards or trying to clean up around the net.

On Tuesday night, that hard work paid a very big dividend.

Kruger scored the game-winning goal 16:12 into triple overtime, as the Blackhawks beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final. The Blackhawks, who had an early 2-0 lead and then lost it, even the series at 1-1; they host Game 3 at the United Center on Thursday night.

Corey Crawford stopped a career-high 60 shots, including 38 consecutive stops in the final 79 minutes, 42 seconds of the game. Duncan Keith played nearly 50 minutes (49:51) and Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook both played about 47 1/2 minutes. Johnny Oduya logged just over 46 minutes.

[ANDREW SHAW: If anyone can pull that off, it should still be a goal]

Not surprisingly, given those gaudy numbers, Tuesday marked the Blackhawks’ longest game in franchise history.

“It felt like it,” Crawford said. “We played hard throughout the whole thing and we had some chances. They had some, too that went off the post. Both sides were so close. That was just a great hockey game to watch, I think.”

It was a great one to coach for Joel Quenneville.

“As intense a game as I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “Unbelievable game, pace, both teams left it out on the rink. Both teams had excellent chances to win the game over different periods.”

The Blackhawks thought they had won it in double overtime when Andrew Shaw head-butted the puck past Frederik Andersen on a power play. But NHL Rule 78.5 (i) says, “Apparent goals shall be disallowed when the puck has been directed, batted or thrown into the net by an attacking player other than with a stick.”

[MORE HAWKS: Five Things from Game 2 - Big minutes from big defensemen]

Shaw said it was worth a shot.

“At that point you just react to the moment, try to get it in and get the game over,” he said.

But there was no denying Kruger, who, at the side of the net, knocked down Brent Seabrook’s shot and past Andersen.

“I lost the puck there when it went [defenseman] to [defenseman],” Kruger said, referring to Oduya and Seabrook. “It hit my glove first and then I tried to get a stick on it. I was happy to put it in.”

The Blackhawks were, too. It was a long, draining game regardless but it would’ve hurt a lot more if the Blackhawks had lost it. It was looking like they would through the first two periods. Despite scoring two power-play goals in the first seven minutes of the game – Shaw and Marian Hossa – the Blackhawks couldn’t keep that early 2-0 lead. The Ducks, who were fueled by a physical game and scoring pressure, evened it up in the second with goals from Andrew Cogliano and Corey Perry.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Then came the marathon segment, with teams battling for opportunities and goaltenders keeping each at bay. Crawford and Andersen were both sensational, the latter stopping 53 of 56 shots.

“I thought he battled,” Quenneville said of Crawford. “I thought he was outstanding, thought he was quick, alert, handled the puck, rebound control. He made a couple gigantic saves.”

In games like this it’s not about being pretty. It’s about finding a way to score that gritty goal. Kruger doesn’t score a lot, but he’s usually in the right areas to have a chance. He capitalized on that chance on Tuesday.

“We love to battle. We stuck with it and Krugs gets a big goal because he’s one of those guys who’s a warrior,” Quenneville said. “But across the board, commend everybody.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: