57 minutes passed in Game 4 of the Blackhawks-Canucks series and it looked like the guys from Canada were about to take a two game lead in the series. The Hawks were getting outcoached, outplayed, and dominated on the offensive end as the Canucks showed off their fundamental defense. As a matter of fact, I was getting ready to write about how it became apparent to me that Joel Quenneville wasn't a good coach in the playoffs as he was not adjusting to what the Canucks were doing.
Then a funny thing happened.
A bounce finally went the way of the Blackhawks as Marty Havlat picked up the loose puck off the boards and flipped it into the net to tie the game at 1 with under three minutes to play in regulation, sending the capacity crowd at the United Center in a frenzy. With that one play, the Blackhawks saved their season and kept the dream alive. The bounce was ironic because a period earlier, the Canucks capitalized off of a breakaway stemmed from Roberto Luongo making two amazing saves on a Hawks scoring chance. The Canucks fourth liners contributed to the one and only goal on the night and for most of the night, it looked like that was going to be the deciding goal. Nikolai Khabibulin faced less than 20 shots as the Canucks seemed confident that one goal lead would hold but such is the beauty of hockey where one little bounce can make all of the difference in the world.
The referees missed an apparent high sticking and/or tripping call on Dave Bolland's breakaway opportunity with 15 seconds left in regulation, but Bolland had the last laugh in the game as it was his shot attempt on Roberto Luongo that won the game. Andrew Ladd came up with the rebound on the save by Luongo to put the puck in the net to give the Hawks their second overtime win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in just a little over three minutes of ice time in the extra session.
This is the type of game that could break the Canucks. They outplayed the Blackhawks for the duration of this game, yet ultimately they head back to British Columbia with the series knotted up at two games apiece. The Blackhawks have the momentum and once again, Game 5 is going to be the big deciding factor in the series. If the Hawks come out of the game with the intensity that they showed in Game 2 at Vancouver, this series will be their's. Scoring two goals in the final six minutes of the game has to give the Blackhawks some confidence heading into Saturday's tilt that they can pressure Vancouver's defense and their best player in Roberto Luongo.
I believe that whoever wins the game on Saturday will indeed win this series. Home ice advantage has been anything but in this series as the Blackhawks blew out the Canucks in Game 2 and they came back from a three goal deficit in Game 1 before losing late. All the Canucks did was nearly win both games in one of the most hostile environments to play in the NHL at the United Center. The Hawks hold the youngest team in the NHL, but they passed the test of winning a crucial road game in the playoffs in the first round when they beat the Flames to advance to the second round.
Playoff hockey is back in Chicago, and boy is it fun to watch.