Blackhawks rally falls short in Game 5 OT loss to Ducks


Blackhawks rally falls short in Game 5 OT loss to Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Blackhawks have made it clear that no lead is safe against them.

They can come back from being down two or three goals, as they did to force overtime in Game 5 on Monday night. But the fact that they put themselves in that position in the first place was head scratching. And while they came close to pulling out a tremendous comeback victory, they’re instead on the brink of postseason elimination.

Jonathan Toews scored twice within the final 1:50 of regulation, but Matt Beleskey scored just 45 seconds into overtime as the Ducks took a 5-4 victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. The Ducks take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series; Game 6 is Wednesday night in Chicago.

Teuvo Teravainen recorded a goal and an assist and Patrick Sharp had two assists for the Blackhawks.

[MORE: Five Things from Game 5: Blackhawks season on the brink]

The end was dramatic and riveting. But it’s the beginning that loomed large. The Blackhawks were awful in the first 20 minutes unable to stop the Ducks in their end and unable to create anything in Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen’s end. When the Blackhawks finally got their first shot on goal — from Toews — more than 16 minutes had elapsed.

Meanwhile, the Ducks did whatever they wanted, scoring three goals — including Cam Fowler and Ryan Kesler’s within 32 seconds of each other — for a 3-0 edge.

“Certainly we didn’t start on time for the first time this series,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “They talked about being ready, and that might have been the differential. But great comeback.”

It was that. The Blackhawks were down 4-2 after Patrick Maroon scored with 5:15 remaining in regulation. But they pulled Corey Crawford twice in the final two minutes, and Toews scored both times. His first shot hit off the iron and in to cut the Ducks’ lead to 4-3. His second, from the side of the goal, went off Andersen’s left skate and in to tie it 4-4 and force overtime.

“Even though they score three goals early in the first, we knew there was a lot of time and we just had to find our game and get our four lines rolling,” Toews said. “I don’t think it matters who you’re playing at this stage of the playoffs. If we were up three goals, we would for sure expect that their team would come back hard and try to dominate the next two periods. So we did the best we could.”

[NBC SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

But unlike previous overtime games, the Blackhawks couldn’t pull this one out. Bryan Bickell’s attempted dump-in shot went off Jakob Silfverberg, who tossed the puck to Ryan Kesler. While Corey Crawford stopped Kesler’s shot, Beleskey was there for the rebound and the victory.

The Blackhawks’ first period, arguably their worst 20-minute segment of the playoffs, was costly. Playing that poorly at any time is dangerous, especially against this Ducks team and especially at this juncture of the postseason. The Blackhawks almost got past it, thanks to Toews’ two late-regulation goals. Instead they return to the United Center having to win.

“We feel that we’re a tough team to get rid of. And now obviously the next game’s a must-win for us” Toews said. “A lot of guys, most guys, if not everybody in this room, definitely believe that that’s when we play our best when our backs are against the wall. So we’re ready for that challenge.

"As we say, it’s do-or-die. But we’ve got to move on, learn from the mistakes we made in this one. Really just throw everything we’ve got at them in the next game and try to keep this series alive.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?


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.”