It didn’t seem possible, the way the Blackhawks had been stopped from scoring over the first three games of their series with the Canucks.
But after Vancouver tied the game 1-1 midway through the first period, it was a tightly-played tie until about five minutes were gone in the second, where the Hawks scored twice within 17 seconds to take a 3-1 lead which they never relinquished. On the first of those two quick goals, scored by Brian Campbell, goalie Corey Crawford got a rare assist. Crawford also made 21 saves Tuesday night.
There is still, obviously, more work to be done. Every game is an elimination game. The series travels back to Vancouver for Game 5 on Thursday; it’ll start at 9 p.m. CDT and be televised on CSN Chicago and Versus.
The Blackhawks' defense of their Stanley Cup title last June has come to this: they must win four straight games against the Vancouver Canucks, starting tonight in Game 4, or go home for a disappointing summer.
They knew it would be a tough road after they had to break the band up last summer because of the NHL salary cap rules; key players like Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien spent the season in other uniforms, some while they were still toting the Cup around Chicago.
It won't be easy. Teams have come back from 3-0 deficits in NHL playoff series, most recently last year when the sixth-seeded Flyers beat the third-seeded Bruins and made it all the way to the Finals. This isn't nearly the same thing -- the Blackhawks squeaked into the playoffs and needed help in the final regular season game, and the Canucks were the best team in this year's regular season, scoring the most goals and allowing the fewest.
There won't be any punishment for Vancouver's Raffi Torres for the hit he took on Brent Seabrook on Sunday -- except for the Blackhawks, who will have to play without Seabrook tonight.
Anything can happen in the NHL and often does, but it seems pretty likely tonight is the Blackhawks' final game of the year. I've been wrong before, and hope I am now.
The game starts at 7 p.m. CDT. It's being televised by CSN Chicago, with national coverage on Versus.