Blackhawks

Blackhawks outlast Ducks in longest game in franchise history

marcuskrugercelebrate.png

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.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

usatsi_9256612.jpg
USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”