Kris Versteeg's goal with 1:30 left in regulation completed a big comeback and proved to be the winner in the Chicago Blackhawks' 4-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinal series on Monday night.
Versteeg's winner came after a great move on the left wing that dropped a Canucks defenseman to the ice. The puck eventually found its way back to Versteeg, who beat Roberto Luongo
to whip the United Center crowd into a frenzy.
Patrick Kane capped the scoring on an empty-net goal with 47.7 seconds remaining.
Their best-of-seven series is now tied at 1-1 with Game 3 set for Wednesday night at GM Place in Vancouver.
Game 2 looked to be a carbon copy of the series opener when Mason Raymond and Mikael Samuelsson
scored twice in the first 5:02 of the contest, but Brent Seabrook answered back 2:48 later to cut the lead in half.
The Blackhawks carried the play for the last half of the first period and most of the second before Patrick Sharp finally tied it at 2-2 early in the third with a shorthanded goal.
Luongo was sharp again, stopping 30 of 33 shots in a losing effort. The Blackhawks made good on their Monday morning promise to bump and crowd him around the net, and it may have had the desired effect.
Antti Niemi bounced back from a rough Game 1 and made 24 saves.
Raymond's second of the series and third of the playoffs gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead just 1:22 into the game. Kevin Bieksa
's shot from the point was blocked by Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, but the puck landed right on the stick of Canucks center Ryan Kesler
in front. His shot was stopped by Niemi, but Raymond was there to chip home the rebound.
With Hjalmarsson and Seabrook in the box for delay of game penalties 30 seconds apart, Samuelsson converted the 5-on-3 advantage to make it 2-0. Henrik Sedin
held the puck at the right post and waited for an opening before sliding it across to Samuelsson, who one-timed it past a helpless Niemi.
The United Center was eerily quiet, but Seabrook cut the lead in half at 7:40 to get the crowd back into the game. Dave Bolland carried the puck to the net, but Henrik Sedin
knocked the puck off his stick and right to Seabrook, who put it past an out-of-position Luongo.
The Blackhawks kept the pressure on during the second period. Luongo had to make breakaway saves on both Adam Burish and Versteeg about a minute apart to keep the score at 2-1. Defenseman Andrew Alberts
also broke up a 2-on-1 during that flurry.
Versteeg had a chance again on a power play a couple minutes later when he walked through the Canucks defense, but his centering pass with Luongo down found no one home. Byfuglien had a chance all alone in front on the same power play, but a pass from Jonathan Toews handcuffed him, forcing the shot wide.
Sharp finally brought the Blackhawks all the way back with a shorthanded goal 6:49 into the third period. He chipped the puck past defenseman Christian Ehrhoff
and stormed down the right wing on a 2-on-1, taking it to the net and beating Luongo on his backhand to tie the game at 2-2.
The chippiness intensified Monday after a Game 1 that was downright cordial in comparison to last year's playoff series.
After a whistle, the Canucks' Rick Rypien
took offense to a hit from Blackhawks defenseman/forward Dustin Byfuglien. Rypien circled behind Niemi's net and wound up on his backside after taking a run at the bigger Byfuglien.
With less than two minutes to go in the second period, cameras caught Ben Eager on the bench having a few words for Canucks forward Alex Burrows while he awaited a faceoff. Burrows had his back to Eager, who was making his first appearance of the series, and never responded.
Shift of the Night: Patrick Sharp's shorthanded effort with the Blackhawks trailing 2-1 early in the third period was a game-changer. He hustled to the top of the zone, chipped the puck past Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff
and was away on a 2-on-1 with Kris Versteeg. Alexander Edler
took away the pass, and Sharp made the Canucks pay. He deked to the backhand and beat Luongo to set the stage for an intense finish.