2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 6 - Chicago 4, Vancouver 3 (OT) – Series tied, 3-3
Ladies and gentlemen, could this be the collapse of the century?
Actually, not even close. The Boston Bruins gacked away a three-game lead against the Philadelphia Flyers last year. Still, the notion that the National Hockey League could create another comeback from a 3-0 series deficit is really rather amazing to behold.
Honestly, just how has this series and rivalry turned so mental after the Vancouver Canucks established what had seemed to be a choke-hold on the Chicago Blackhawks?
Wait a minute: The term “choke-hold” is now becoming an all-too-literal and decidedly painful way to refer to this best-of-seven battle. The Canucks, who have never won a Stanley Cup in their sad and tortured history, are on the verge of choking away a 3-0 series lead just 12 months after Boston suffered the dubious distinction against the Flyers.
Just how did the defending Stanley Cup champions – whose obituaries are now very much on hold – manage to tie this series on Sunday night at a rocking United Center in the Windy City? Off all people to score a game winner in the playoffs, the entirely unheralded Ben Smith scored on a rebound at 15:30 of overtime, enabling the champs to beat the President’s Trophy-winning Canucks and force a seventh game in this Western Conference quarterfinal series. Smith, a rookie, followed in a long, hard shot from the point by teammate Niklas Hjalmarsson that went off Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. The haunted Luongo, a ten-million-dollar man who has been owned by Chicago for three straight postseasons, didn't start the game but was called upon in the third period when Cory Schneider had to be helped off the ice when he was injured as he tried to stop Michael Frolik's penalty shot that tied the game at 3-all. Luongo played bravely in net, but he gave up a bad rebound at the wrong time, and the opportunistic Blackhawks made him pay dearly.
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Vancouver got off to a good start with two first-period goals. The first goal of the game was scored by Daniel Sedin, his fifth of the series, at the 2:06 mark. The Hawks responded with a goal of their own
when Bryan Bickell tied the score up at one with a marker at 14:57. The final goal of the opening period was scored by Alex Burrows at 18:48. Chicago tied the game up at two with the only goal of the second
period, when folk hero Dave Bolland scored at 15:08 after Schneider made his second puckhandling mistake of the night.
As the tension of this tilt mounted, Kevin Bieksa gave the Canucks a boost by scoring just 58 seconds into the third period and giving Vancouver a 3-2 edge. The lead was short-lived, though, thanks to the aforementioned penalty shot goal scored by Frolik at 2:31. The period remained tied after 60 minutes of hockey, with Chicago goalie Corey Crawford making a number of clutch saves and establishing strong position when the Canucks made a few odd-man rushes against a leaky Blackhawk defense.
In overtime, the Canucks carried the play, but they missed on a number of opportunities within 15 feet of the goal. Teams have to bury the plum chances they get in sudden-death competition, and Chicago exploited the Canucks’ errant shotmaking at crunch time. After Vancouver failed to capitalize on its open-ice surges, Smith came out of the shadows for Chicago. He jumped on the poorly-allowed Luongo rebound to send the series back to British Columbia for a seventh game and put every Vancouver fan on high alert.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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