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Blackhawks Thu May 07 2009

From the brink to Bedlam

Tonight's Game 4 between the Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks had all the feel of an elimination game, and essentially it was. Lose, and Chicago would be down 3-1 and heading back to Vancouver in a deep hole. With the way the Cancuks dominated Game 3, nothing short of a win would help.

In the first 3 games, the Hawks got off to horribly slow starts and Vancouver capitalized with leads. Tonight saw the Blackhawks come out strong and controlled the opening period with an 8-4 shot advantage, including 5-1 in the first 8 minutes, but couldn't crack Canuck netminder Roberto Luongo. Midway through the 2nd, Vancouver struck on an odd man rush for a 1-0 lead, and as time ticked away into the third period, things looked grim for the Hawks. Chicago managed to continue to put pressure on, but couldn't find a quality scoring opportunity.

Until nice work by Andrew Ladd along the boards led to Martin Havlat alone in the slot, and his snap shot eluded Luongo to tie the game at one. Crowd and team were reawakened, and entering overtime, the momentum was solidly on the Hawks side.

And in just a little over 3 minutes, the United Center was shaking from the rafters, as Dave Bolland spun and threw a shot toward the net that Ladd tipped past Luongo for the game-winning goal. The crowd went from edge of the seat, tense anxiety to a euphoria, and with the series tied at 2-2, the Hawks are back in the chase.

The going won't be easy, and despite their stronger play today, there were still too few quality scoring opportunities to beat an All-Star goalie like Luongo. The Hawks will need to find a way to steal a game in Vancouver, and to play more consistently overall. While they showed the Canucks they can weather the trap and still emerge with a win, Chicago needs to find a way to play at a consistently higher level.

Still, after being ready to accept the end of the season (albeit one that exceeded all expectations), to be heading back to Vancouver squared away is welcome relief.

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