ANAHEIM — Forget about the late game heroics, as stunning as Jonathan Toews’ performance was. And look past, if you can, the third overtime game in five instalments of this Western Conference final, the second straight 5-4 contest.
The scores have remained close, we’ll give you that. But there is some separation here, and it is dead obvious to anyone watching every minute of this series: Anaheim has been better, for longer, while the Chicago Blackhawks are clearly the hunters in this relationship, ensconced in the chase opposition and now trailing 3-2 in the series.
The evidence? How about a 3-0 lead, and a 15-minute Ducks head start before Chicago even had a shot on net in Game 5? How about the fact that Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen was horrific in this one, and still Anaheim won?
What about the part about Chicago still not having beaten Anaheim in regulation through five games? Or the fact the longest stretch of domination occurred on Monday, and it was the Ducks absolutely owning the opening 20 minutes?
"Aside from the two goals at the end of the game," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, "we controlled most of the hockey game."
"We showed them early, by coming out of the gate so hard. We dominated the play," said winger Andrew Cogliano. "It’s tough at the end there, because they’re good. They’re going to make plays and get chances. We needed that win. We couldn’t lose on another overtime goal by them coming back on us."
That is how this series is shaking down. Anaheim ahead, and Chicago coming back. Anaheim with a three-goal outburst, then Chicago finding a way, somehow, to force OT.
We all know how those relationships tend to work themselves out over a seven-game series. You don’t usually win from behind. Not at this level.
"We weren’t ready to start the game," said Chicago winger Patrick Sharp. "Sixty minutes later we’re all tied up in overtime."
Sounds easy, eh?
Chicago’s comeback, however, was jump-started by Andersen’s worst goal of the series, a long wrist shot by Teuvo Teravainen — Chicago’s best forward for most of the night — that went right through the Danish goalie. Then, after Toews had made it 4-3 with a lovely bar-down one-timer at 18:10 of the third period with Corey Crawford on the bench, he threw a puck at the net from the goal line, coming out of the corner.
"He caught me off guard," Andersen said. "He threw it from nowhere and caught me on the wrong foot. It’s obviously one I got to have at that time of the game."
That puck has no business going in, yet counts as the goal that forced overtime. It does not, however, count as fine Blackhawks play, or some heroic Toews feat, we are afraid. It was fluke at best, bad goaltending at worst.
On a night when everything was rotten in Denmark, the Danish ‘tender let his club down big-time, and blew some false wind into the Blackhawks sails.
"It was obviously one of the harder things I have done with the way the game went for me," said Andersen, who has been absolutely stellar up until the second period of Game 5. "Getzy came down right away and tried to pick me up. He’s a great leader. Told me whatever matters now is the next shots; that’s all I can worry about it."
Alas, the next shot never arrived. After a double- and a triple-overtime — Chicago’s only wins in this series — Anaheim never let this one get to the second shift. Matt Beleskey banged home a Ryan Kesler rebound on a two-on-one at the 45-second mark.
"Coming into overtime intermission," said winger Patrick Maroon, "Bruce (head coach Boudreau) said, ‘Get your heads up boys, we’re going to win this hockey game,’ and everyone believed in here."
"Guys just knew," said Cogliano. "We just needed to get it done. You know, we were talking a lot on the last couple of overtimes about what we wanted to do. Tonight, guys just knew. Guys just knew what to do."
In seven previous series, with the leadership group of Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, the Blackhawks had never lost a Game 5 in a series that was tied 2-2. They lost tonight, and now the Hawks sound like a team with a prayer, and perhaps not a lot more.
"We feel that we’re a tough team to get rid of," Toews offered. "Now the next game’s a must-win for us. A lot of guys, if not everybody in this room, definitely believe that that’s when we play our best when our backs are against the wall. So we’re ready for that challenge.
"Really just throw everything we’ve got at them in the next game and try to keep this series alive."
Anaheim has done everything, except for the most difficult thing. They’ve got the champ on his heels, a right eye puffed from five games worth of left jabs.
Now, it’s time for Anaheim to knock the champs out. And time for us to find out exactly what the Ducks are made of.