CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Chicago Blackhawks tied up their Western Conference playoff semi-final series against the Vancouver Canucks with a dramatic 2-1 win in overtime on Thursday.
Left winger Andrew Ladd seized victory for Chicago with a tip-in from center Dave Bolland’s slap shot past goaltender Roberto Luongo 2:52 into extra time, sending the sell-out crowd of 22,682 into raptures.
“It was a huge comeback for us, and we’re right back in the series now,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville told reporters. “The momentum shifts have been remarkable.”
Chicago’s Martin Havlat earlier sent the game into overtime when he scored his fourth goal of the playoffs with a wrist shot with less than three minutes left in regulation.
“I thought Havvie was a threat, and dangerous with his speed all night. He’s a big factor,” Quenneville said.
While Chicago out-shot the visitors 28-15, Vancouver opened the scoring with a second period goal from Darcy Hordichuk and kept a shut-out going until almost the final buzzer.
“We were a couple of minutes away from winning this game, but we have to deal with it and move on,” said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault.
Once the game went into overtime, goal-tender Nikolai Khabibulin kept the Blackhawks alive with two key stops.
“He made two great saves ... it was challenging after not being tested very much during the 60 minutes,” Quenneville said.
Despite the dramatic conclusion, Thursday’s game was a dour, defensive struggle.
“Today was probably one of the best checking matches I’ve seen in hockey this year,” said Vigneault.
“Unfortunately we came out on the wrong side. They didn’t make a lot of mistakes and when they did make mistakes we were not able to execute.”
The series, now tied 2-2, resumes in Vancouver on Saturday, with the young Blackhawks, led by 21-year-old captain Jonathan Toews, looking to extend their run against more experienced opponents.
“These guys are very coachable and receptive to everything. There’s a lot of skill in there, there’s a lot of speed, there’s a lot of excitement,” said Quenneville.
“And the energy level is not going anywhere but up.”