CHICAGO -- With about eight seconds left in desperation time Thursday, Patrick Kane got the puck and an opening to be a hero.
Hurtling toward the goal with the Chicago Blackhawks having a man advantage and a chance for a last-second comeback, Kane’s potential building-shaking, series-changing shot ... went just wide to the right of Anaheim Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen.
The seconds ticked away. The goal horn stayed silent. Chelsea’s dagger stayed sheathed. There would be no two- or three-overtime marathon this night. Chicagoans got a good night’s sleep.
In the end, it was just a 2-1 loss -- and a 2-1 Anaheim lead in the Western Conference finals.
The Blackhawks, who hadn't played a home game since May 3, had their chances and they squandered them. But there’s plenty of hockey left to be played, starting Saturday night at the United Center.
One of the more popular inane "sound bite" questions afterward was "Is Saturday's game a must-win?" The answer is, duh.
After Tuesday’s grueling triple-overtime victory in Anaheim, California, the Blackhawks all brushed off fatigue as an excuse. No one expected a fast game for three periods, given both teams traveled cross-country following that marathon.
Chicago had plenty of opportunities but couldn’t capitalize. In fact, the only chance the Blackhawks converted on came off a no-look shot by Kane.
Late in the first period, Kane scored his first goal of the series, and eighth of the playoffs, on a brilliant back-to-the-goal backhand shot. Just Kane doing his thing, being gross with vulcanized rubber.
“It’s obviously pretty disgusting what he can do with the puck,” Kris Versteeg said. “It was a special goal.”
Asked if he got a look at the net before he shot it, Kane said, “I knew I was in front of the net and I had my head down looking for the puck and I just kind of whipped it.”
Maybe that’s been his problem this series. Kane has been looking at Andersen instead of doing his Jedi mind shtick.
Actually, the entire Blackhawks power-play unit could’ve used some sage advice from Master Yoda. You know the one: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Chicago had five power-play opportunities spanning 9 minutes, 18 seconds. The Blackhawks had three such chances in the first period, including a four-minute double minor on Jakob Silfverberg's high stick to Jonathan Toews.
With all that time, the Hawks got a whopping one shot. One shot in more than 9 minutes.
So what happened?
“I don’t think our entries were very good,” Kane said. “We didn’t seem to get the puck back when we were battling for it. We let them have some easy clears, too, so that’s gotta be way better.”
“You got to get into it a little deeper there,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn't have zone time. We didn't get them tired. We're the ones getting tired because we had to keep breaking out. So, you know, I think that was a stretch there we didn't get the momentum where we should have put a little bit more heat on them. We had them taking penalties and we didn't make them pay.”
“We’ll look at it, I’m sure, in the next 24 hours and have an answer for you,” Patrick Sharp said. “The power play goes through stretches where it’s going to get hot and sometimes you’re not going to score. But a big game like that with a lot of opportunities, it would’ve been nice to score.”
Quenneville scratched forwards Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette for Joakim Nordstrom and Versteeg, calling it a “fresh legs” move. Most hockey observers thought it was a bit odd. You wonder if Teravainen could have made a difference.
As Sharp noted, whenever the goals don’t come, the Blackhawks say the same things to try to explain it. Put the puck on net, get bodies in front, pray for Kane to do his thing. Hockey 101 stuff.
The Ducks are a big team and they used their size to plant guys in front of Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. Twice, it worked.
The Ducks took their 2-1 lead with 55 seconds left in the second period on a Simon Despres shot. The goal easily went through a clear space on the near post as Crawford battled with, yes, Perry again standing in front of him.
The Blackhawks had another power-play chance early in the third period, followed by a 4-on-4 opportunity. They pulled Crawford with two minutes to go.
But as they showed all game, more men didn’t mean much.