Blackhawks 4, Canucks 3, OT
Sunday, 04.24.2011 / 8:14 PM
-- Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford couldn't remember how high he leapt but suffice it to say, it was about as high as he could get with heavy equipment trying to keep him down on ice level.
"That was awesome," Crawford said.
Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks are miraculously still alive. Yes, there will be a Game 7 Tuesday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Of all people it was Chicago rookie Ben Smith, who has played in all of six regular season games in his NHL career, scoring the overtime winner 15:30 into the extra session at United Center on Sunday. Smith's backhanded swipe at the rebound left in the slot by Roberto Luongo
was the difference in Chicago's 4-3 victory against the Canucks.
It was the difference between the end of the season for the defending champs and perhaps a new "History Will Be Made" commercial.
"He seems to know the right place to go to get rewarded," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Smith, Chicago's latest sensation.
The Blackhawks left this building a week ago down 3-0 in the series, but they've rallied to win three straight and are now one victory away from becoming the fourth NHL team in history to win the final four games of a seven-game series. They are one victory away from erasing the Canucks from the postseason for the third straight year.
Maybe there is something to this supposed mental stranglehold they have over the Canucks.
"We have to feel like things are going to go our way," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We have to feel like it's meant to be."
We'll know Tuesday if it is, but without a doubt, the Blackhawks are carrying every ounce of momentum into Game 7. The Canucks did just about all they could to win Game 6, even going as far as starting Cory Schneider
over the slumping Luongo, but Crawford was strong with 32 saves and the Blackhawks were undaunted every time Vancouver forged ahead.
Vancouver played so much better than it did in losing Games 4 and 5 by a combined 12-2, yet it still couldn't come away with the 'W'.
"I could not tell you what they're thinking. I couldn't tell you what is going through their heads right now," Blackhawks center Dave Bolland said of the Canucks. "This is huge if we come back here to beat them. We have momentum going our way right now and we'll go in there (to Vancouver) hard."
The Canucks led 1-0 just 2:06 into the game and 2-1 after one period. They led 3-2 on Kevin Bieksa
's goal 58 seconds into the third period, but Michael Frolik scored a goalie-crippling penalty shot goal 93 seconds later to even things up and force Luongo in the game.
Schneider, who made 17 saves against 20 shots in his surprise start, cramped up when Frolik's backhand-to-forehand deke had him splitting awkwardly in the crease. Frolik scored with a high stick-side shot and Schneider fell back into the crease. He needed help to the bench and Luongo, who was watching from the trainer's room, had to grab his helmet and come in with 17:29 to play.
"Maybe that was a good thing," Frolik said. "We got some good shots on Luongo after that and he gave us a rebound."
Luongo actually faced only two shots through the rest of regulation, but he was tested 11 times in the overtime. He stopped the first 10, with his last save being on Niklas Hjalmarsson's shot from the blue line. Except, he couldn't control the rebound on that one, so the puck came out to Smith, who while falling down got the back of his stick blade on it and scored the winner with Luongo prone on the ice.
Marian Hossa got the puck in deep before sending it up to Hjalmarsson, who was in shooting position above the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo.
"I really just wanted to get to the front of the net," Smith said. "That's what I try and do. That's my game, to be a body in front of the net and whack at rebounds. Nik Hjalmarsson made a great, hard shot and the rebound bounced right there for me."
Smith admitted the two goals he scored in Game 2 gave him the confidence that he can be a contributor at this high of a level. He spent most of the season in Rockford with the Blackhawks American Hockey League affiliate.
"I'm just grateful," Smith said. "The guys have been so good to me and I'm really grateful I could contribute that way, help the season move on a few more days and see what happens."
Despite repeated claims that Luongo was his goalie, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault went with Schneider instead to start Game 6. He said he made the decision on Saturday after discussing it with his staff and the Canucks' executive brass.
"Sometimes you've just got to go with your gut," Vigneault said. "Sometimes the book is over rated. My gut told me it was the right thing to do."
Luongo didn't seem like he was holding a grudge, saying, "Me and Schneids are the best goaltending duo in the NHL this year, so he's just as good as I am and it doesn't matter who's in net."
Luongo was also asked how the Canucks respond after losing three in a row?
"The same way Chicago did," he answered. "They were down 3-0 and came back and played a hell of a game and beat us 7-2, so they found a way. Now it's our turn to respond."
The Canucks responded well from back-to-back blowout losses in Games 4 and 5, but the Blackhawks had an answer every single time.
scored the first goal of the game, but Bryan Bickell cashed in with 5:03 left in the first period to even it up at 1-1. Alex Burrows notched his first of the series with 1:12 left before the first intermission, but Bolland scored 15:08 into the second period to tie it up.
The third period started well for Vancouver as Bieksa crashed the net and got a rebound past Crawford before one minute had expired. However, Dan Hamhuis
tripped Frolik on his way to the net and the Czech forward scored on the penalty shot with 17:29 to play.
Then Smith scored in an overtime that seemed to be dominated at times by the Canucks.
"Anything can happen now," Toews said.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl