Antoine Vermette’s frustration with his Game 3 scratch was apparent the following day.
“I was not happy with that,” Vermette said on Friday. “But my job is to be ready whenever I have a chance to be in the lineup, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Ready, he was.
Vermette scored the winning goal in double overtime, and the Blackhawks overcame a three-goals-in-37-seconds barrage by Anaheim to beat the Ducks 5-4 on Saturday night. The Blackhawks and Ducks are tied 2-2 in the Western Conference Finals series, which continues with Game 5 in Anaheim on Monday night.
Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews scored their first goals of this series. Brent Seabrook also scored for the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford stopped 47 of 51 shots, including all 17 the Ducks had in the first overtime, for the victory.
For Vermette, there was no bitterness as he sat at the podium following Saturday’s game. There was also no it’s-about-me talk, with that game-winning goal lessening the scratch frustration.
“I mean, at the same time you don’t want to make an individual a story,” Vermette said. “The main focus is about the team’s success. That’s all that matters, so I’m glad we won tonight.”
Coach Joel Quenneville called Vermette, “a great pro.”
“I was very happy for him. What a huge goal for him and for us,” he said. “What makes our game so great is that players are so competitive, they want to play in the worst way and want more ice time as well. You can understand where he was at, very disappointed. But he stayed with it. That line had a couple of looks in overtime and I’m glad he finished it because that was a huge, huge goal. Huge.”
[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
It wasn’t looking like the Blackhawks would even get to overtime after the Ducks scored three times in 37 seconds in the third period. The Blackhawks had just taken a 3-1 lead on Seabrook’s goal when Ryan Kesler scored barely a minute later. Then Matt Beleskey and Corey Perry also scored, putting the Ducks up 4-3 midway through the third period.
“We played a pretty good hockey game in regulation and go up 3-1 and probably would havebeen a tough one to swallow if we would have lost that, especially in regulation,” Brad Richards said. “Glad I don’t have to talk about it and it’s just a what-if now.”
It is that, because Patrick Kane evened it at 4-4 with his power-play goal at 12:39 of the third period. After getting through the Ducks’ shooting barrage of the first overtime, Vermette scored his winner on a second-chance effort 5:37 into the second one.
How Vermette handled the Game 3 scratch on the inside is anyone’s guess. But he handled it well on the surface and couldn’t have capped his return any better.
“The emotion in the corner was pretty fun,” Vermette said of the post-game euphoria. “This is a fun group and we had a fun celebration. Hopefully we can do it again.”