In the 2015 Western Conference Finals, the Blackhawks trailed the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 going into Game 4 at the United Center. After tying the series on Marcus Kruger’s Triple OT goal in Game 2, the Hawks lost Game 3 after some questionable roster changes by Joel Quenneville. One of those rosters moves for Game 3 was scratching deadline acquisition Antoine Vermette.
The Hawks were now faced with a pivotal Game 4. Win, and it’s a whole new series. Lose, and you’re down 3-1 going back to Anaheim. In Game 4 the Blackhawks jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead with goals from Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook. Up 3-1 in the third period, it looked like the Hawks would be able to hang on and tie the series. But all of a sudden, everything changed in 37 seconds. The Hawks were up 3-1, and then bang… 37 seconds later it was 4-3 Ducks. Easily the second most stunning sequence (17 Seconds*) that I have ever witnessed in hockey… It was surreal. The crowd was stunned, and Anaheim was suddenly in the driver’s seat with a 4-3 lead midway through the third.
All hope seemed lost. The Blackhawks had blown a 3-1 lead with a complete meltdown that was so fast our watch party barely had time to sit back in our chairs. Bang! Bang! Bang! The Hawks were now trailing.
But, the Blackhawks regrouped and showed true championship character. On the power play, Patrick Kane tied the game 4-4 with about seven minutes left in regulation. No one was able to score for the rest of the third, and game headed to OT. One overtime session would not be enough. Five minutes into the second overtime, fans thought that they were possibly in store for another grueling marathon game.
Antoine Vermette, who was scratched for Game 3 and reinserted into the lineup, had other thoughts…
Vermette buried the overtime winner, giving the Blackhawks a 5-4 win, and tying the series 2-2 going back to California. After losing Game 5, the Hawks would comeback once again and defeat the Ducks in seven games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final in thrilling fashion.
Vermette’s winner is a dark horse for my favorite Blackhawk goal of my lifetime. This game and goal ranks extremely high on my “favorite of all-time” list. I think most Blackhawks historians/fans would probably have this goal lower than No. 8 on their list, certainly might not even be in their Top 10 or Top 15.
I see this goal as the saving grace of the Blackhawks’ 2015 Stanley Cup run. If the Blackhawks lose this game, which it seemed at many times was a real possibility, I don’t see how they win Game 5 in Anaheim.
In my opinion, it is one of the most graceful overtime goals in the history of the NHL. Slight exaggeration? Maybe. But just watch the video. That was freaking beautiful.
Let’s review… Patrick Sharp with a great play along the boards, a beautiful spinning pass from behind the net into the slot that seemed to divinely float through the legs of three Ducks players to a streaking Antoine Vermette.
Wide open in the slot, Vermette’s initial shot looked golden. Honestly, I thought it was going in. Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell makes an absolutely sensational diving play to block the shot with his hands. Goalie Frederick Andersen somehow didn’t touch the puck once during this entire sequence.
Vermette had the poise and coordination to locate the puck in the air off of Rakell’s block. As the Ducks players and goalie scrambled to find the puck, Vermette played it out of the air and onto his stick. Andersen was caught out of the crease, Vermette corralled the puck and buried it from just above the goal line. A beautiful and poetic finish to an incredible hockey game.
#7 coming tomorrow…