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.”

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis welcome Nick Gismondi into the fold before discussing Friday's win over Columbus. Robin Lehner played stellar and is forming quite a tandem in net with Corey Crawford (4:10), while the DeBrincat/Kane connection is alive and well (6:10), and the Blackhawks' struggles at even strength continued (12:10). Then, the guys react to the breaking news of Kirby Dach's recall from Rockford and discuss where he might fit into this lineup (15:10).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.