EDMONTON – Just a week ago, fans were excited that the Blackhawks were finally going to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs again. Seven days later, the team is fighting to just remain in the tournament.
Despite some good efforts, the Golden Knights won the first three games of the team’s Western Conference quarterfinals series. Top-seeded Vegas simply had too much for the young Blackhawks’ team, who faced a quick elimination from the playoffs on Sunday night.
But their efforts, along with those from goalie Corey Crawford, finally paid off in Game 4, and keeps the Blackhawks’ season alive for another couple of days.
Two goals in the first period from Drake Caggiula and Matthew Highmore provided the winning margin for the team in a 3-1 victory over the Golden Knights at Rogers Place on Sunday evening. Crawford made 46 saves on the evening and Alex DeBrincat finally put the game away with an empty net goal in the final minute.
It’s the Blackhawks first playoff victory since Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference quarterfinals against the Blues.
It ends an eight-game streak that included a Game 7 loss in that series, a sweep by the Predators in 2017, and three losses in this series against the Knights. Now the Blackhawks face another must-win in Game 5 on Tuesday night in Edmonton, but at least their season continues for at least 48 hours.
What helped the effort was the Blackhawks’ ability to get on the scoreboard first, which they did 4:08 into the game. Ollie Maatta got the puck in the back of the net then passed to Caggiula in front, and he put in his first goal of the postseason to make it 1-0.
Matthew Highmore made it 2-0 on a bizaare sequence where his shot from the side of the net went off the helmet of Vegas goalie Robin Lehner and in the net. Replays showed he was trying to knock the puck away with his head but he inadvertantly gave the Blackhawks a goal.
Shea Theodore scored 18 seconds after that, capitalizing on one of 20 shots that were put on Crawford in the first period. Yet that would be the only one Crawford would let past him the rest of the way, with the goalie saving his best for the third period.
He stopped all 11 shots on goal, even when the Golden Knights put six attackers on the ice in the final minute. DeBrincat, who has put a flurry of shots on goal the last two games, finally got his first postseason goal on an empty netter in the final seconds.
All were part of a season-saving victory for the Blackhawks that bought them 48 more hours in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.