After being embarrassed in the opener to the series, the Blackhawks found a way on home ice to steal a victory from the Vancouver Canucks.
Trailing 2-1 after two periods, Patrick Sharp scored a short-handed goal in the third period, and Kris Versteeg scored with 1:30 left in regulation to put the Hawks up 3-2 to level the series at one game apiece.
The game had an ominous start for Chicago, who were outshot 9-1 early and gave up two goals in the opening five minutes. Brent Seabrook scored a key goal a couple of minutes after to draw the Blackhawks within one, and after that the game leveled off and became an exciting end to end match with a lot of scoring chances.
The Blackhawks really came on strong and forced play more than they had at any time in Game One, but the Canucks held their ground and kept the shot totals even, they just failed to expand their lead despite their chances.
Ryan Kesler was stopped on a short-handed 3-1, and the Canucks’ power play stalled late in the game, failing to capitalize on a Versteeg tripping penalty, and a crucial Too-Many-Men penalty against the Hawks that appeared poised to be a serious turning point in the game.
The squandered opportunities to increase the lead provided an opening for the Blackhawks to tie the game on a lucky bounce and great play. Midway through the third period, with the Canucks on a powerplay, Hawks forward Patrick Sharp saw the puck bounce on Canucks’ Alexander Edler at the point, Sharp swooped in, knocked the puck by Edler leading to a two-on-one for Chicago. Edler took the other forward, and Sharp made a deft move to beat Luongo and tie the game at 2.
Patrick Kane added an empty-netter and the series is now tied at one heading back to Vancouver.
From a Chicago perspective, it was a much better effort that the Hawks simply had to have. Being beaten twice in your own arena to start the series would have been a complete shock to the team and city and hard to recover from against a Canucks team that boasted the best home record in the West with a team record 30 home wins this season. Chicago is back in the series, back at square one, despite only playing with the lead for 1:30 in the entire series. The Blackhawks were opportunistic and managed to win despite a horrible start and solid goaltending from Luongo and a fairly strong Canuck performance. That bodes well for the Hawks going forward.
From a Vancouver perspective, it was an opportunity created and an opportunity lost. The Canucks were minutes away – again – from taking a stranglehold on the series heading back to Vancouver. The Canucks sat back too much in the second half of the game and as usual, paid for it. Despite being 32-1 after two periods with the lead, the team does seem to squander leads that it creates early on, as they can get too comfortable with a lead. But that is the glass half empty. For many Vancouver fans, the glass is half full. As the underdog heading into this series, the Canucks accomplished a split in Chicago and proved they can win there and dominate the Hawks. Moreover, they have only trailed in this series for 1:30. Their goaltending has been very solid and their play in the defensive zone is much improved from last season and even last series.
Canuck fans that are disappointed in this Game Two opportunity lost should recall last year when they had a 3-0 lead on the Blackhawks and lost Game Two in overtime at home, only to fly into Chicago and rebound with a win in Game Three. Certainly this year’s Game Two loss is less disappointing, and coming home for Game Three will certainly be a more hospitable environment to regain control of the series.
Game Three goes Wednesday night at 6:30pm.