Antoine Vermette wins it in double OT as Blackhawks tie series


Antoine Vermette wins it in double OT as Blackhawks tie series

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.

[MORE: Five Things from Game 4 - Blackhawks back with a bang]

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.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns


Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”