The clock shined “2.1” in the Wachovia Center in the moments after Chris Pronger scored the second Flyers goal in just over two minutes to topple Cristobal Huet and the Blackhawks.
The worst part wasn’t that the dirty, gap-toothed monkey ass scored so late to win it. Or, that ex-Hawk Michael Leighton beat high-priced Huet in what turned into a goaltending battle. It was that the Hawks had this one in their back pocket with just over two minutes left to play.
The Hawks, too, had the better of this one most of the day. In a game that went scoreless into the third, the Hawks outshot the Flyer in each period and dominated time of possession for much of the afternoon. At one point, Pat and Eddy opined that the Flyers blocked as many shots as the Hawks were given credit for in the first: 15. While the score was 0-0 going into the third, the Hawks were outplaying a solid Eastern Conference team in its own building. Not bad at all.
Then, the third happened.
Less than 90 seconds into what would be the final frame, Brent Seabrook coughed up the puck along the half-boards, and Daniel Carcillo found a wide-open Simon Gagne with a wraparound-pass (of sorts). Gagne had a gaping six-by-four from the bottom of the circles and didn’t miss.
Next, on the power play and about ten seconds after Leighton and the Flyers caught a break with an early whistle that barely preceded the puck finding the back of the twine, Marian Hossa, Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg each attacked the net after Duncan Keith won a loose puck at the half-boards. Hossa’s first attempt was stopped, but Versteeg’s follow-up was a no-doubter. Less than two minutes following the game’s first goal, the Hawks scored a goal and had another disallowed.
The third was far from over, however. About midway through the frame, Dave Bolland and Hossa came into the Flyer zone on a 2-on-3. Bolland shielded his defender in the middle of the ice and made a short dish to Hossa on the outside; Hossa one-timed the neat feed right past Leighton to give the Hawks their first lead of the night.
Now, in Ron White fashion, I’m going to tell you one story so that you understand another. All game, Pat and Eddy talked about how Scott Hartnall was benched in the Flyers’ previous game – and then double shifted when he was put back into it. Hartnall, as they said a few times, was without a goal in 14 straight.
But, someone forgot to tell that to Brent Sopel, who got out-muscled on a one-on-one from the blue line in by Mr. Hatnall. The play started oddly: Kimmo Timonen rounded his own net to start a breakout, and slapped a full length pass to Hartnall at the Hawk blue line. (How long before 50-something fans blame the loss on Gary Bettman for repealing the two-line pass rule?) Hartnall caught the pass with a step on a surprised and flat-footed Sopel, and Sopel was unable to regain positioning. Hartnall fought himself to a one-on-one with the goaltender and beat Huet on the short side with a neat little shot that hit the goalpost first.
Fine. A point on the road ain’t bad, right?
Well, yes, but this story’s not over.
After Patrick Kane was thrown off the puck with one arm by Matt Carle on one end, Carle started the breakout quickly with just seconds left. Trailing the play – and apparently out of gas – Jonathan Toews cuddled up next to the only Flyer in the neutral zone and Patrick Kane … went for a change. A harmless breakout late turned into a four-on-two, and a beautiful cross-ice pass from Claude Giroux found Pronger at the far post. Pronger tapped in the sweet dish, and the Flyers celebrated.
Yo, Listen Up!
– Eh. This was undoubtedly a tough loss. Having a game in-hand and watching it slip away during the last two minutes isn’t easy.
But, other than a handful of mistakes, the Hawks played a nice game. They got 41 decent shots on Leighton and otherwise out-played a tough home team.
Lucky for the Hawks, they get to turn around and play another game within 24 hours. Not so lucky: it’s against the best team in the NHL.
– As I said a few months ago when I started to get bored with this regular season, this Hawk campaign is a marathon rather than a sprint. As one of the league’s elite teams – and one rather entrenched in its playoff spot – anything that doesn’t directly affect the Hawks’ chances in April, May and June will result in a yawn in my house.
So, yawn. Sure, a late breakdown like Saturday’s could arguably cause a late-season swoon – especially when it preceded a game against the Caps – but I don’t see it. You go berserk; I’ll be trying not to fall asleep before round one.
– Huet was very good. It’s a stark change from his new-born calf routine last weekend against the Red Wings, and it may have put him back in the race to start game one of the playoffs. Huet was confident and well positioned all afternoon, and it took two nice plays late to beat him. Well done, Sir.
– Don’t blink. Here come the Caps. Enjoy yourselves at the UC, folks.