ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jonathan Toews' heroics will be a footnote. Teuvo Teravainen's breakout playoff performance will be forgotten. How the Chicago Blackhawks overcame a 3-0 first-period deficit won’t matter.
What could have been an epic comeback victory for the Blackhawks against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Monday turned into a disastrous 5-4 overtime defeat, one that puts Chicago on the brink of being eliminated a step short of the Stanley Cup finals for a second consecutive season. The Blackhawks must win the next two games to advance.
The Ducks’ Matt Beleskey officially ended the Blackhawks’ evening with the winning goal 45 seconds into overtime, but what really knocked the Blackhawks out was their first period.
The Blackhawks haven’t had many games in which they played a worse 20 minutes than Monday's first period. The Blackhawks allowed three goals, including two in a 32-second span. They didn’t have a shot on net for the first 16 minutes, 25 seconds. They registered just three shots in the period. They lost 16 of 26 faceoffs, and they had six giveaways. The Ducks dominated them from start to finish.
“We didn't start on time for the first time in the series,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They talked about being ready. Might have been the differential.”
Two trends caught up with the Blackhawks in that period. First, they allowed goals in quick succession. In Game 4, they were able to overcome Anaheim's three-goals-in-37-seconds flurry. In the bigger picture, Monday marked the seventh time this postseason that the Blackhawks allowed three goals in a period.
The Blackhawks have gotten away with playing with such fire for much of the playoffs -- they won four of the previous six times that happened. They weren’t so lucky Monday.
Toews couldn’t find an explanation for the Blackhawks' penchant for allowing opponents to score in bunches.
“I don’t know,” said Toews, who forced overtime with two goals in the final 1:50 of the third period. “I guess when we give up one, we’ve got to find ways to come back and try and cut off their offense and cut off their momentum. At the end of the last game and early in this game, we just didn’t quite do that well enough and gave up too much. But we’ve got to try and stop the bleeding a little bit earlier next time.”
Quenneville has often defended the Blackhawks’ defensive struggles by pointing to his players' ability to counter those periods with their own share of goals. He did the same Monday but also admitted he hadn’t previously witnessed the Blackhawks giving up goals in bunches like they have throughout these playoffs.
“I mean, we have big periods offensively as well, but key shifts of quick goals is something we haven't dealt with before,” Quenneville said. “We've got to kill that.”
There is little time left to do that. The Blackhawks must win in Chicago on Wednesday, then come back to Anaheim for a Game 7 on Saturday.
“No excuses,” Toews said. “Can’t hold anything back now. You’ve got to draw on everything you’ve got, every type of experience you’ve been in before and dig even for more than that and see what you got. Because we know how good this team is, [and] we know how determined they are.
“And I think you definitely dig deep and ask yourself those questions too, and you find out how much you’ve got. I think we’re confident that we’ve got that character and we’ve got what it takes to win the next game and keep ourselves alive in this series.”