It took three games and the ability to fight back from numerous goofy bounces, but the Hawks finally nabbed two points from the Dallas Stars. Cue the confetti and pop some champagne; the civic nightmare is officially over. Not really, but whatever.
The game got off to an atrociously slow start, thanks in part to referee Don VanMassenHoven trying to impress all the ladies in the crowd with how loud his whistle is. In a span of 6 minutes, VanMassenHoven called 5 penalties between the two teams. When Dustin Byfuglien went off for interference while John Madden checked to make sure he still had teeth after taking Jere Lethinen’s stick to his mouth, it looked like it was going to be a long night.
Mike Ribeiro scored while Byfuglien sat in the box. With both Hawk defensemen behind the net, James Neal won the puck and all he had to do was hit Ribeiro’s stick before it went into the net.
Five minutes later, Patrick Kane fired a relatively harmless shot towards Marty Turco. Somehow, the puck snuck between his legs and just like that, the game was tied at 1.
With just under two minutes left in the opening frame, a Jeff Woywitka point shot got through towards the net. Antti Niemi coughed up a rebound while Brad Richards and James Neal each took turns whacking at the loose puck. Neal’s rebound attempt got past Niemi and the Stars reclaimed the lead.
Patrick Kane would respond.
After a nifty little pass courtesy of Kane helped Patrick Sharp establish the play in the Stars’ end, Kane found himself with the puck behind Turco. He came out from behind on his forehand and with Dave Bolland providing the screen in front, Kane’s shot found its way past Turco to tie the game.
In the third, Marian Hossa came down on a 2-on-2 with Troy Brouwer. With no play to be had, Hossa fired a shot towards the net. The puck skipped wide but the re-direction off the boards went right to Troy Brouwer who buried it past a completely clueless Marty Turco.
The Stars would tie it late.
The puck was behind the Hawks net. It found its way to Brent Seabrook. As he tried skating with it and James Neal forechecking, the puck rolled right off his foot then his stick. Brad Richards scooped up the loose puck and found Loui Eriksson all alone. Eriksson didn’t miss.
In the meanwhile, Seabrook’s partner, Duncan Keith, had no idea where Eriksson was standing. His ever-present active stick was trying to deny Richards a pass to an area where there was no opposing player. By the time he recognized where Eriksson was at, the puck was already leaving his stick and heading into the net.
The Hawks survived a major scare in the final two minutes of the overtime. Duncan Keith was in the penalty box for hooking and the Stars had a ton of good opportunities to end the game right there. Brent Sopel and Antti Niemi had other ideas. The two combined to stop about 8 shots during the man advantage. Sopel took the brunt of the abuse and he capped the terrific penalty kill by playing the last 15 seconds of it without a stick. For an encore, he dove for a loose puck at the side of his net and flung it around the boards with his hand to clear the zone for the final time.
The shootout was scoreless for five rounds before Kris Versteeg figured out all it takes to beat Marty Turco on a breakaway is a drag move. Versteeg made a subtle move and fired the puck between Turco’s legs to give the Hawks the extra point.
—Patrick Kane’s pass to Patrick Sharp that helped set up his second goal was a perfect example of how he sees the game two moves ahead of everyone else. With the Stars denying the blue line, Kane made a soft dump-in short of center ice. While it seemed for a second that Kane made a foolish play, it all made sense once Sharp busted between the Stars defensemen and gathered the loose puck. Kane saw Sharp with a full head of steam and knew that play was the only way Sharp was going to get the puck in that sequence. Watch it again; it’s pretty magical.
–Did Marian Hossa purposefully bank that shot in hopes of it finding Troy Brouwer on the third goal? I say no, but I’m sure some will disagree. He’s good, but I don’t think he’s ‘bending spoons’ good.
–Classic Duncan Keith moment at about the 10 minute mark of the third period. With the puck at center ice, the Hawks coughed it up and Stars seemed to have an odd-man rush coming the other way. Keith’s furious back-checking, though, denied a shot attempt. Pat Foley was all ready to goo-goo gah-gah over it before something else caught his attention. Of course, what you won’t hear from Pat on that play is how Keith’s back-checking was the result of him making an awful read in the neutral zone. If Keith had just been in the right spot, the Stars are coming down on a 2-on-2 rather than a 2-on-1.
–Here’s my biggest pet peeve with the shootout: People’s opinions about the game seem to hinge solely on the outcome of the skills competition. Take for example, last Friday night. The Hawks and Coyotes played a tight 1-1 game. Cristobal Huet played a solid game. Since the Hawks lost the shootout, the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was how bad the goals Lang and Aucoin scored. Now, after this game, I’m sure they’ll be plenty of people ready to name their first born children Antti and a rush to order “Finnish” on Rosetta Stone. All because of a skills competition that means nothing once the playoffs come around.
–I’ve had the opportunity to have good seats at the United Center more than a couple times. It never fails when Don VanMassenHoven refs that’s he going to take the opportunity to check out every woman within the first five rows. Watch for it next time you get seats in the 100 level and you see that mustachioed creep skating towards your girlfriend with a raised eyebrow.