Blackhawks show their championship mettle in Game 4 victory


Blackhawks show their championship mettle in Game 4 victory

On every team's journey to a Stanley Cup they're going to have their championship mettle tested. For a battle-tested Blackhawks group that has their eyes set on a third Stanley Cup since 2010, that moment may have come in a span of 37 seconds in Game 4 against the Anaheim Ducks Saturday evening.

After a Brent Seabrook goal put the Blackhawks up 3-1 in the third period and sent the United Center crowd into a frenzy, the Ducks flexed their muscles by scoring three times in 37 seconds to give the visitors a brief lead. 

Just 64 seconds after Seabrook's tally, Ryan Kesler cut the lead in half for the visitors with a one-timer off a pass from Jakob Silfverberg. Only 23 seconds later, Matt Beleskey evened the game with a strip of Antoine Vermette and a shot that sailed past Corey Crawford. Sensing his team needed to regroup, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville used a timeout, which he later proclaimed was the worst timeout he's ever called. The slight break in the action didn't stop Anaheim's onslaught as Corey Perry notched his ninth goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs just 14 seconds later to give the Ducks their only lead of the evening.

[MORE HAWKS: Antoine Vermette wins it in double OT as Blackhawks tie series

The three goals in 37 seconds by the Ducks set a franchise record and is the second-fastest in NHL history behind the 1978-79 Toronto Maple Leafs who scored three goals in 23 seconds against the Atlanta Flames with none other than Quenneville assisting on one of the goals. 

The shock and disbelief was felt by the 22,404 fans in attendance at the United Center, but it wasn't something the Blackhawks were going to let faze them.

"When it rains it pours in some moments, especially for us today in that third," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "A lot of teams wouldn’t feel too good about themselves but we did a good job of staying calm, knowing it is what it is. You can’t change that. You have to get yourself back in the game.

"It’s moments like that when things don’t go your way, they swing the other way for a minute it’s looking pretty good. We had the character and the poise to calm ourselves down, make a game of it and get ourselves back into it."

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

In desperate need of an equalizer, it was a man who is no stranger to postseason heroics that rose to the occasion with a streak-breaking power play goal.

After being held in check by the Ducks for 10 straight power plays, Patrick Kane snuck one past Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen for his team-leading ninth goal of the postseason to help send the game into overtime.

"We've been in these situations before," Kane said. "Everyone is accustomed and used to playing in these types of games, whether it's going to overtime or tight games. It seems like we've been in this situation a lot. We just try to stay calm and try to do whatever we can to get the next one."

To survive in the postseason you need contributions from each man on the roster, and the depth that the Blackhawks bring to the table was at the forefront in Game 4.

With a roster full of All-Stars, Olympic gold medalists and Stanley Cup champions, the hero from the Blackhawks' 5-4 double overtime victory on Saturday evening would be a player who was watching Game 3 on television.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Game 3, Vermette provided his biggest moment in a Hawks sweater since being acquired in a trade deadline deal back in March. 

Not letting his brief one-game hiatus from the lineup and earlier turnover that led to an Anaheim goal bother him, Vermette came through in the clutch with his second goal of the postseason to even the Western Conference Final at 2-2. 

After being questioned ad nauseam for sitting Vermette in Game 3, Quenneville was finally able to let out a sigh of relief when talking about his veteran center following Game 4. 

"I was very happy for him," Quenneville said. "What a huge goal for him and for us. 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’s a great pro, stayed with it, and that line had a couple of looks in overtime.

"I’m glad he finished it because that was a huge, huge goal. Huge."

Down 3-1 vs. tied 2-2 in the Western Conference Final? Huge may be an understatement. Even for this resilient bunch. 

A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

Kirby Dach made his pro debut on Saturday, but it wasn't with the Blackhawks.

The No. 3 overall pick from this past June was activated from his injured/non-roster designation and assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League for conditioning purposes and jumped right into the lineup. He didn't appear in any NHL preseason games because he was under the league's concussion protocol during training camp.

In his season debut, Dach recorded two shots on goal and had a minus-1 rating in a 4-2 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins. He centered the fourth line with Brandon Hagel and Nick Moutrey.

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton discussed the decision to send Dach to Rockford after Saturday's game against the Winnipeg Jets, and it sounds like the organization remains committed to giving him a look at the NHL level whenever his conditioning stint is over.

"He hasn't played in a long time," Colliton said. "Missed training camp, missed the exhibition season. We think he can help us so we're trying to set him up, give him the best opportunity so when he does get the chance here he'll be as ready as he can be. It's a good league down there and a chance for him to get his feet wet against men. And I think he's been getting better and better in his practice time here with us. So I'm excited. Hopefully, he can gain confidence down there and then be ready to help us."

Because he's not eligible to play in the AHL full-time this season due to Canadian Hockey League rules, Dach's conditioning stint in Rockford can last up to 14 days, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, before the Blackhawks are forced to either recall him or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League.

Rockford has four more games over that span, with its next one on Monday against the Laval Rocket at BMO Harris Bank Center.

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on Saturday:

1. Squandering a two-goal lead

For the second straight home game, the Blackhawks jumped out in front and even built an early cushion by scoring the first two goals in the opening frame. But they allowed the Jets to score three unanswered, including the overtime winner by Mark Scheifele, to remain winless on the season (0-2-1).

"We did a good job in the first and they took it to us in the second," said Brandon Saad, who scored a shorthanded goal. "Lehnny made some big saves and the third was kind of even. But we definitely had chances to close it out and we didn’t. At least we got a point and we have to move on from it."

2. Another lackluster second period

If there's one thing you can point to that's been a trend in all three games so far, it's that the Blackhawks have been lackluster in the second period. And it's difficult to pinpoint why.

In the middle frame, the Blackhawks have 10 scoring chances for and 35 against at 5-on-5, two high-danger chances for and 10 against at 5-on-5 and a minus-19 shot differential, according to Natural Stat Trick. That's an area of the game they're trying to clean up and has been the downfall to their attempts of putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"Obviously it's been three in a row where we haven't been very good in the second period and to me that's where you show how good you are," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "The best teams, they dominate the second period, so it's a point of emphasis for us. We'd like to control the tempo of the game and control the territory, out-chance the other team. That's where you show how good you are, so we're not close to where we want to be in that area."

3. Robin Lehner's debut

After going two weeks without game action, the Blackhawks gave the nod to Lehner, who went into Saturday with a 4-0-0 record, 2.76 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in five career games against the Jets. He took the loss, but certainly did his part to deserve a win.

In regulation, Lehner stopped 30 of 32 shots for a save percentage of .938. The first goal was on the power play, the second came at 5-on-5 when Andrew Copp found himself all alone in front and the third was in overtime during 3-on-3 action. His 5-on-5 save percentage was .962, which will definitely work.

"I felt good," Lehner said. "I felt like I saw the puck well. I thought rebound control was good. Again, the first one is unfortunate, it squeaks through. But I was where I wanted to be in position and somehow it goes in. Gotta try to clean that up. And the third goal, it just dove on me. He missed his shot. It’s unfortunate. But I thought I made some good saves and felt comfortable. We got a point, which is something, but should’ve got a win today."

4. Penalty kill shows improvement

The Blackhawks gave up a power-play goal for the third consecutive contest, but this was close to being a perfect night for the penalty kill. They went 3-for-4 and gave up only four shots on goal in the 7:38 of shorthanded time.

On the first Jets power play of the night, Saad scored a shorthanded goal for his first of the season and the Blackhawks later generated two more scoring chances before the two minutes expired.

The power-play goal against should've been stopped by Lehner but he did everything right and had the shortside sealed, the puck just found a mini hole. The Blackhawks responded with a big kill and had one late in the third period also. No complaints.

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