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Cullen: Blackhawks stay alive; Sharks rally for OT win

Scott Cullen
4/20/2011 8:58:18 AM
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The message that came out of Tuesday night's games was: don't give up.  For the Chicago Blackhawks, they played their most inspired game of the playoffs (if not the entire season) to avoid a sweep and the San Jose Sharks rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win 6-5 in overtime.

VANCOUVER-CHICAGO
The return of David Bolland might have been expected to give the Chicago Blackhawks a boost, but a career night from Bolland (four points, plus-4) propelled the Blackhawks to a one-sided victory, keeping them alive for at least one more game.

Bolland hadn't played since suffering a concussion March 9, making his performance -- after a five-week layoff -- all the more impressive.

That he made a difference in the game shouldn't come as a surprise.  In last year's six-game series against Vancouver, Bolland registered five points while his frequent assignment, Henrik Sedin, had six points, but was also minus-4. 

Sedin matched that minus total last night, taking a minus-4, the first time in Henrik's career that he's been saddled with a minus-4 in a single game.

While Roberto Luongo doesn't think Bolland is the kind of player who can affect the outcome of the series, he certainly did for one night.  The line of the Sedin Twins and Alex Burrows was limited to a total of four shots on goal and credit for that must go to Bolland's line, who locked them down in 5-on-5 situations.

Going back to Vancouver is important, as it may provide an opportunity for the Canucks to get more advantageous matchups.

Coming back from a 3-0 series deficit is a tall order, no doubt, but the Blackhawks can be encouraged by the Game Four result because it wasn't even the Blackhawks stars leading the way. 

Bolland's line, with wingers Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik (who added a goal and two assists), dominated play and the defence pairing of Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson rounded out a five-man unit in which each member was plus-4.

Patrick Sharp added a couple of third-period goals, Patrick Kane had a pair of assists and Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa chipped in assists as well, so the stars got involved, but mostly after the outcome was no longer in doubt.

After two, the Blackhawks had built a 5-1 lead, outshooting Vancouver 26-13.

Surely, facing elimination brought out some desperation in the Blackhawks, but they also seemed to be riled up by the lack of a suspension for Vancouver winger Raffi Torres, after he blew up Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook (who, incidentally, didn't have the puck) and it brought out a physical side that has been lacking from the Blackhawks, even as Seabrook was forced to sit out with an upper body injury that everyone assumes is a concussion.

So, if the Blackhawks have any hope of getting off the mat and making this a series, they'll need to follow Tuesday's blueprint, hitting the Canucks at every turn and being aggressive right off the bat.  At this point, what do they have to lose?

SAN JOSE-LOS ANGELES
Coming home with a split in San Jose was a great opportunity for a Los Angeles Kings team that is vastly overmatched on paper, yet has given the San Jose Sharks all they could handle early in the series.

When the Kings built an early 4-0 lead, it looked like they were on the way to taking a lead in the series and San Jose was going to be exposed like so many other Sharks teams in so many playoffs before.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Kings' coronation, apparently the 80s called.  The game turned into a wide open affair, with defensive gaffes aplenty, and San Jose stormed back in the second period, scoring five times on 18 shots, while the Kings somehow didn't see a need to call a timeout to try and break the momentum as their lead slipped away.

Naturally, the teams tightened up defensively in the third and the game went to overtime tied at five, setting the stage for Devin Setoguchi to give the Sharks their second overtime win of the series.

Dan Boyle was a force for San Jose, playing 28:00 and getting a couple of assists to ignite the second period comeback.  Ryane Clowe notched a pair of goals, while Ian White (returning after missing Game Two), Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Niclas Wallin each contributed a couple of points as well.

The Sharks' fourth line of Scott Nichol, Jamal Mayers and Ben Eager got benched early after going down minus-2 apiece.  The trio combined for less than seven minutes of ice time total.

After his super fantastic Game Two performance, Kings blueliner Drew Doughty logged a game-high 28:30, but was a game-low minus-3 in the process.

The Kings' best player in Game One, Justin Williams, has struggled to get on track since, recording just one shot on goal in the last two games, but Los Angeles' hopes were buoyed by the performances of their depth forwards.

Brad Richardson had a couple of points, Kyle Clifford scored his second goal of the series and Willie Mitchell's opening goal was assisted by Trevor Lewis and Kevin Westgarth.  It was Westgarth's first point since December 29 and Richardson's third multi-point game of the entire season.

The Sharks' lacklustre play has given the Kings hope in this series, only to have San Jose escape with a pair of overtime wins to somehow lead two games to one.  Given the talent deficit they're facing, the Kings should be credited for making this such a competitive and compelling series, but it's going to be awfully difficult to pull off an upset when the favourite already has a pair of overtime wins.

Presumably, the Sharks might show up for a full game at some point and finally take control, but if they don't do it in Game Four, and the series returns to San Jose tied, it's really not going to be such a surprise considering the inconsistent play that has occurred through the first three games.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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