Given a second chance, he responded. Versteeg ripped a shot from the left circle that went past Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo(notes) with just 1:30 left Monday night, sending the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-2 victory over the Canucks and tying the Western Conference semifinal series at 1-1.
“I got pumped and lost the puck ‘Oh my goodness what did I just do?”’ Versteeg said. “Fortunately I got the puck back. I was just trying to shoot as hard as I could.”
After Versteeg lost control momentarily, Dave Bolland(notes) dug the puck out and slid it to Brent Seabrook(notes), who passed it to Duncan Keith(notes) at the point. Keith then moved it to Versteeg, and his first goal of this year’s playoffs put the Blackhawks up 3-2 and sent the United Center crowd into a frenzy.
“There were a bunch of guys around me. I’m not even exactly sure what happened on the play,” Luongo said.
“Once it went to the point, I got up as quick as I could and got in position and was able to get a glimpse that he fed it across there,” he added. “So I tried to get across, and I did. He just pretty much made a perfect shot under the bar and in there.”
The Blackhawks, who trailed 2-0 with only 5:02 elapsed, tied the game early in the final period on Patrick Sharp’s(notes) short-handed goal. Patrick Kane(notes) added an empty-netter to send the Blackhawks to Vancouver, where Game 3 will be played Wednesday night.
“We’ve managed to respond after tough losses all season long,” Sharp said. “We say after every game that the next one is the biggest.”
Mason Raymond(notes) had a goal, and Mikael Samuelsson(notes) added a power-play tally in the opening minutes when it looked as though the Canucks would take control and command in the series. But Seabrook brought the Blackhawks within a goal in the first period.
Niemi finished with 24 saves. Luongo stopped 30 shots.
“We had the power play moment twice in the third period where we could have made the difference and not only did we not, they scored on it,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.
“We’re going back home now. … We’re going to have to play better than we did tonight, obviously.”
Sharp’s short-handed goal at 6:49 of the third came at the end of a 2-on-1 break. He chipped the puck past a defender to start the rush, skated in from the right, waited until Luongo committed and then beat them with a backhand.
Chicago nearly took the lead on another short-handed opportunity late in the period. Marian Hossa(notes) came up with a steal but couldn’t get off a good shot before Luongo covered up. Sharp had another breakaway, but shot high over Luongo’s glove with a little more than five minutes to play.
Raymond scored his second goal of the playoffs off a rebound. Kevin Bieksa(notes) fired a long shot from the right point, and when Ryan Kesler(notes) couldn’t convert the first rebound attempt from in front, Raymond followed it at 1:22.
Less than four minutes later, Vancouver converted during a two-man advantage when Henrik Sedin(notes) threaded a perfect pass across the top of the crease to Samuelsson, who scored his eighth of the postseason to make it a quick two-goal lead.
Playing with more spark and aggressiveness than in Game 1, Chicago finally scored on Luongo even strength. Luongo had made 36 saves in the opener. The Blackhawks’ only goal in that 5-1 loss came with a two-man advantage.
The Canucks had a 3-on-1, short-handed break later in the period, but Niemi snuffed an attempt by Ryan Kesler to keep it at 2-1.
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