Well, everyone, a Manitoban did it again. Fact is, if it wasn’t for Manitoba hockey players, these deadlocked Stanley Cup playoff games might go on forever.
Friday night in St. Louis, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who just so happens to be from Winnipeg, picked up a bouncing puck and went in alone of St. Louis Blues goaltender Ryan Miller, made a couple of patented Toews dekes, flipped a backhander past the goalie and suddenly another overtime game was, indeed, over.
“I wasn’t even sure where their D-men were,” Toews told reporters after scoring at 7:36 of overtime to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 victory. “Just got going as fast as I could. Take advantage of a chance.”
Toews will admit it was a pretty lucky play. Hawks goalie Corey Crawford made a great save on a shot by David Backes and defenseman Duncan Keith (who was born in Winnipeg but didn’t grow up here) picked up the rebound and cleared it off the shin pad of teammate Andrew Shaw. The puck caromed all the way up the ice to Toews who was all alone at centre ice. Bing, bang, Bob’s your uncle and the Hawks had a 3-2 series lead.
“I was just saying to some of the guys in the other room, I’m trying to get the puck out of the zone and all of a sudden it lands on his stick,” Keith told the Associated Press. “Couldn’t believe it. So, I was pretty happy seeing that.”
Marian Hossa and Ben Smith also scored for the Hawks, who have now won three in a row – Toews has been the best player on the ice overall — and can wrap up this first-round series at home Sunday. This was always going to be a great series and it’s certainly lived up to the hype: Four of the first five games in the series have gone to overtime.
“I think we got lucky on that winning goal, but I don’t think that at the end of the day we win because of luck,” Keith told the AP. “I think both teams have a lot of fire and grit and a lot of determination, and it’s a fine line between winning and losing. Like I’ve said a few times, we’re going to need our best game of the year our next game.”
“What’s pouting going to do?” St. Louis forward Alex Steen, another Winnipegger who has been outstanding in the series, told reporters after the game. “You just get back on the horse. It’s a game. You have to win four. They have three, we have two. Off to Chicago we go. See you there.”
Of course, while the Winnipeggers have made a mark on this series, Manitobans have been the difference in a handful of playoff games this spring.
In the opener of the Tampa-Montreal series, Winnipeg’s Dale Weise scored the overtime winner for Montreal. In the first game of the Blues-Blackhawks series, Winnipeg’s Alex Steen scored the overtime winner for St. Louis. In Game 2 of the Columbus-Pittsburgh series, Brandon’s Matt Calvert scored the overtime winner for the Blue Jackets. (BTW, In Game 4 of the St. Louis-Chicago series on Wednesday night, Toews had two assists and was named the game’s third star.)
On Wednesday night, Winnipeg’s Cody Eakin didn’t need to wait until OT. He scored the winning goal just past the six minute mark of the third period as the Dallas Stars went on to beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-2.
Eakin had two great chances early in the third period and made good on the second. First, he got a near-point blank wrist shot off a rush just 58 seconds into the period and hit the post. On his second opportunity at 6:22, he didn’t miss, beating Frederik Andersen inside the far post to give the Stars the lead. It was Eakin’s first career playoff goal.
But hey, he’s a Winnipegger, you can bet it won’t be his last.