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.
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.”