2015 Western Conference Finals Game 4 Recap
By: Nick Lanciani
A sold out crowd at the United Center was rocking the arena’s foundation to its core on Saturday night as the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks squared off in Game 4 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals. The building was sent into a frenzy many times and experienced plenty of lows at other times, but somehow the Blackhawks prevailed 5-4 in double overtime as Antoine Vermette scored his first game winning playoff goal since April 25th, 2006- back when he was a member of the Ottawa Senators.
Corey Crawford, with the win, made 47 saves on 51 shots against, while Frederik Andersen saved 35 of 40 shots on goal. Chicago improved to 6-1 at home in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs as Anaheim fell to 4-2 on the road in the playoffs. The series, meanwhile is now tied 2-2.
Chicago led in many categories at the end of the 1st period, finally dominating the dominators of the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far, the Anaheim Ducks. The Blackhawks had 14 shots on goal compared to the Ducks 6 shots on goal. Chicago also led faceoff wins 9-7 and takeaways 4-3. The physical game was also much closer at the end of twenty minutes in Game 4 than all of the previous games in the series as the Ducks lead 22-16 in hits.
With 2:20 to go, Brent Seabrook took a minor penalty for slashing Anaheim’s, Ryan Kesler, and gave the Ducks their first power play opportunity of the night. Marcus Kruger had an important defensive zone faceoff win that led to the Blackhawks clearing the puck and killing time on the penalty. Anaheim was never fully able to gain an entrance into the offensive zone and caused a turnover that led to Chicago moving the puck past a stumbling Francois Beauchemin- who had tripped after making contact with referee, Chris Rooney- and to the tape of Brandon Saad.
Saad prevented a diving Anaheim defenseman from knocking the puck off his stick and put one past Andersen for his 4th of the playoffs and the 1-0 lead at 19:13 of the 1st period. The Blackhawks came out as a much better team in Game 4 than they had been in Game 3, however, the Ducks further proved why they are a sixty minute effort team as they began to open things up in the 2nd period.
Shortly after Jonathan Toews’s high sticking penalty had come to an end, the Anaheim Ducks got on the scoreboard with a redirected goal from Emerson Etem (his 3rd of the playoffs) assisted by Kyle Palmieri and Francois Beauchemin. After two periods of play, both teams were 0 for 2 on the power play. The Ducks continued to lead in hits, 35-32, and blocked shots, 16-12, but Chicago was still dominating on the faceoff dot, 26-14.
If the first period was all Blackhawks, then the second period was all Ducks, who limited Chicago to just 6 shots on goal in the 2nd. Anaheim, meanwhile, nearly doubled their shots on goal total in that period and tightened the total shots on goal to a close 20-19 statistic in favor of the Blackhawks. Despite the second period dominance from the Ducks, the Blackhawks did have one thing going in their favor- Corey Crawford’s reflexes.
Crawford denied Matt Beleskey on a brilliant opportunity on the rebound with quick reflexes and athleticism that at the time held the 1-0 lead for Chicago, until Etem tied it later in the period. The 1st period was dominated by Chicago, the 2nd period was dominated by Anaheim, and the 3rd period, was wide open and one for the ages.
Nearly three minutes into the 3rd period, Jonathan Toews fired home a wrist shot that beat Andersen and made it a one-goal lead for Chicago. Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa picked up assists on Toews’s goal. The Blackhawks had a 2-1 lead and were outshooting the Ducks 26-19 nearly seven minutes into the third.
Brent Seabrook added his fourth of the playoffs on a slap shot from the point, giving Chicago a 3-1 lead, as Saad picked up his 2nd assist on the night and Toews earned his first. Saad wound up with a goal and two assists for a three-point night and a solid effort alongside Toews and Hossa on the Blackhawks first line.
And then the magic happened. The Anaheim Ducks scored 3 goals in 37 seconds, going from trailing from 3-1 to leading 4-3. Ryan Kesler scored his 5th of the playoffs with help from Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano at 8:42 of the third, then Matt Beleskey added his 6th of the playoffs on an individual effort at 9:05, and finally Corey Perry pocketed his 9th of the playoffs with his goal at 9:19 of the 3rd period, assisted by Ryan Getzlaf.
The United Center went from the euphoria of a 3-1 lead to the silence and chaos of trailing 4-3.
Anaheim’s miracle 3 goals in 37 seconds were the 2nd fastest three goals scored in Stanley Cup Playoffs history. Only the 1979 Toronto Maple Leafs did so faster in a playoff matchup with the Atlanta Flames- it only took them, an NHL record, 23 seconds.
It wasn’t long before the Ducks took a penalty at 12:23 of the 3rd period, though. Silfverberg was sent to the box with a two-minute minor penalty for holding and the Chicago Blackhawks went on the power play for the third time on the night.
You know as they say, the third time’s a charm, and it was for the Chicago’s power play unit as Patrick Kane tied the game 4-4 with a power play goal on a nice set up from Brad Richards and Duncan Keith. Kane’s 9th of the playoffs came at 12:39 of the period and capped off a span of 6 goals scored between both teams in a 10:01 span.
At the end of regulation, Chicago led the shots on goal department, 33-31, and faceoff wins, 39-26. Anaheim, meanwhile, led in hits 44-42, and blocked shots 23-13. An exciting overtime was set after the intermission allowed for the Zamboni’s to resurface the ice and fans were able to regulate their heartbeats once again.
The first overtime saw end-to-end action, as well as battles all over the ice. The Ducks had 10 shots on goal before the Blackhawks got their first shot on goal in overtime. At 9:44 of overtime, Sami Vatanen took a holding penalty and gave Chicago their fourth power play opportunity of the night. Fortunately for the Ducks, the Blackhawks were not able to capitalize on their man advantage and Anaheim killed off Vatanen’s penalty with ease.
Neither team was able to score as the intensity wore off and the pace settled in. The end of overtime assured that for the 2nd time in the 2015 Western Conference Finals there would be at least double overtime before determining a winner. Anaheim had finally overtaken Chicago in shots on goal with 47-38 at the end of the first overtime. The Ducks were still out hitting the Blackhawks, 58-49, and blocked 32 shots compared to Chicago’s 18 blocked shots.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, still had a faceoff advantage having led faceoff wins 44-37 after four periods of hockey. In terms of special teams, neither team took another penalty in the game, so the Blackhawks were also winning that department by virtue of having scored a power play goal.
Both teams emerged from the locker rooms for the second overtime and began with noticeable difference in energy. Perhaps still fatigued by the marathon triple overtime- nearly quadruple overtime- Game 2, neither team could get a grip on controlling the game-flow.
At 5:37 of the second overtime, Antoine Vermette- acquired before the trade deadline in March by the Blackhawks- scored the game-winning goal on a rebound off of Anaheim goalie, Frederik Andersen.
The goal was Vermette’s 2nd of the playoffs and was assisted by Patrick Sharp and Teuvo Teravainen. In keeping with typical Stanley Cup Playoffs fashion, the overtime winning goal was scored by an unexpected hero who had in fact, came up clutch when least thought possible, after having been a healthy scratch for Chicago in Game 3.
The final shots on goal outcome was 51-40, in favor of Anaheim, who also led hits, 60-52, and blocked shots, 34-20, at the end of the night. Chicago laid claim to faceoff wins 48-40 and the more important, final score, 5-4 in double overtime.
With the Blackhawks win the series is now tied at 2-2. Game 5 is Monday night at 9 PM EST at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The series is now virtually a best of three game competition with at least two more games to be held.
One thing is for sure, these two teams are bringing out the best in each other- and that’s exciting hockey to watch.