Chicago Blackhawks' stars come out in time

Chicago Blackhawks' stars come out in time
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford makes a glove save on a shot during the third period of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against the Anaheim Ducks. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

Before the Blackhawks put their planets back in alignment with a wild 5-4 overtime victory Saturday in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, their hopes of a hockey dynasty teetered on the edge in 37 seconds of the third period at the United Center.

Chicago had won a Stanley Cup title in a shorter time span — see 17 seconds, 2013 — but this time it was on the other end of the flurry. The Ducks had just scored their third goal in a 37-second outburst to take a 4-3 lead in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, stunning a hockey city.

What just happened, Chicago wondered? How could the Blackhawks recover in the final 12 minutes, let alone rebound mentally Monday in Game 5 back in Anaheim? Could this really be the last game this season at 1901 W. Madison? How do you explain a game decided by inches determining legacies?

The answer is you don't. In the words of Patrick Kane — who scored the tying goal with 7 minutes, 21 seconds left that sent the game into overtime — that's hockey, baby. And it seldom gets better than it was in Game 4, another marathon.

Both goalies, Corey Crawford and Frederik Andersen, took turns one-upping each other. Both teams refused to lose. As the Blackhawks and Ducks furiously went back and forth into the second overtime, the only clear-cut winner was every witness on hand or at home.

It isn't every day you see a team score three goals in 37 seconds, after all. It's only happened one other time in NHL history — April 12, 1979, when the Toronto Maple Leafs did so in a scoring binge that included Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville.

This time surely was harder for Quenneville to watch.

The Blackhawks had a 3-1 lead after Brent Seabrook's goal at the 7:38 of the third period when Ryan Kesler started the barrage. Then Matt Beleskey. Then Corey Perry, public enemy No. 1.

It reminded everybody how shaky the Chicago defense has been.

In the breathless buildup to the latest must-win for the Blackhawks, the name Trevor van Riemsdyk oddly piqued Chicago's curiosity. A fine prospect, the rookie defenseman is 23 and looks young enough to have delivered your Sunday paper. Yet you probably wouldn't recognize Van Riemsdyk because injuries have kept him off home ice. Put it this way: Derrick Rose looks at Van Riemsdyk's health history the last couple years and feels lucky.

In the last 18 months, "TVR" has suffered a broken ankle, a broken kneecap and a wrist injury. All required surgery. On Friday, doctors cleared van Riemsdyk, offering Chicago fans seeing red over persistent blue-line breakdowns an exciting alternative. When Beleskey deked Kimmo Timonen in the third period, it reinforced how much of a liability the 40-year-old had become, and why there was so much interest in Van Riemsdyk's availability.

Yet nothing against the potential of the young defenseman, but nobody around town would have been scrambling to learn how to spell Van Riemsdyk or pining for a player they wouldn't recognize at Starbucks if the team's offensive stars were playing like stars. They hadn't for most of the Western Conference finals.


That all changed in one of the wilder third periods of these or any playoffs when Jonathan Toews and Kane responded on cue.


While the Chicago White Sox honored their longtime captain, Paul Konerko, earlier Saturday a few miles south, the Blackhawks were still waiting for theirs to do something worthy of a standing ovation. Toews took the ice for Saturday's opening faceoff not having scored a goal since May 3 — Game 2 against the Wild. When Toews went to the penalty box for high-sticking late in the second, a penalty that gave the Ducks momentum, his face reflected the frustration that had built within him.


It all disappeared when Toews elevated a shot past Andersen with 17:22 left in the third to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead. Toews' celebration suggested how long of a wait it had been for him, the second member of the top line to finally break through.

Brandon Saad ended his own 22-day goal drought Saturday scoring short-handed with 46.5 seconds left in the first period.

And what a goal it was. Saad broke into the clear near the opposite blue line after Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin tangled up with referee Chris Rooney and lost his footing. At that point, Saad displayed the speed that makes him so dangerous and sprinted past a diving Kesler to beat Andersen.

Kane's goal was more greasy than Toews' but no less important. It came at 12:39 of the third after the Blackhawks had blown a 3-1 lead and trailed 4-3 — the game's fifth goal in a 5:01 span. Kane slid the puck between Andersen's legs just above the left crease on a power play.

The stars everyone in red wanted to see, the ones who had been too quiet, announced the Blackhawks were still very much alive.

Follow David Haugh on Twitter @DavidHaugh