Here’s the second installment of our 10-week Throwback Thursday series, counting down to the Hawks’ home opener on Thursday, October 5. Up next: the 2009-10 season which culminated in the Blackhawks’ first Stanley Cup in 49 years. But today’s focus is Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on May 23, 2010.
I expected this season to be the most difficult one to pick because of how many iconic moments happened during that glorious, initial run to the Cup. As I said in the introduction for this series, though, we were looking for some of the moments that may have been overshadowed by others or have slightly faded from memory. Marian Hossa’s Game 5 overtime winner against the Nashville Predators probably casts a shadow too big for this list. I almost settled on the five-goal comeback against the Calgary Flames before opting for this one instead: Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks
The Hawks already owned a 3-0 series lead
But San Jose owned much of the early momentum in Game 4 at the United Center. Logan Couture put San Jose ahead 1-0 in the first period, and the situation unraveled further when the Hawks got a power play in the middle of the second period after Devon Setoguchi tripped Patrick Kane.
About 45 seconds into the power play, Kane’s attempt at a wide-open goal was blocked by Marc-Edouard Vlasic, with the ensuing rebounding bouncing to Patrick Marleau high in the slot. As Marleau turned to clear the zone, his attempt blasted Duncan Keith in the face. While Keith labored toward the bench, San Jose got a 3-on-2, and Marleau capitalized with a shorthanded goal that made it a 2-0 Sharks’ lead, silencing the capacity crowd at the United Center.
San Jose had a chance to break the game open with a few unsuccessful odd-man rushes over the next couple of minutes. With Keith in the locker room getting repairs for the seven teeth he lost and Andrew Ladd already out for the game with an injury, a shorthanded Hawks team struggled against a determined San Jose squad.
Brent Seabrook finally turned the momentum, with his shot from an awkward angle eventually sliding between the legs of Evgeni Nabokov. That woke the crowd up.
Keith returned to the ice one minute later, helping the Hawks kill off an abbreviated Sharks’ power play. With about 90 seconds left in the second left in the period, Dave Bolland (who else?) tied the game on a goal assisted by Ben Eager and — of course — Keith. The scoreboard may have indicated a tie game, but the Hawks were clearly in front now.
That season’s playoff phenom, Dustin Byfuglien, put the Hawks ahead for good with a power play goal at the 5:55 mark of the third period. Five minutes later, Kris Versteeg added the empty net goal that sealed the Hawks first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in nearly 20 years, damn near blowing the roof of the United Center.
The craziest part about this game? Keith spent a good 7 minutes of game time in the locker room and still managed a game-high ice time of 29:02. As I re-watched the final 10 minutes of that game, it doesn’t seem like Keith was ever on the bench. Keith later told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen that hearing “Chelsea Dagger” after Seabrook’s goal made his mouth feel a lot better.
The needles that the dentists were puncturing his mouth with started to work their magic. His gums and teeth, or what was left of them, started to go numb ("Froze up," Keith called it). He realized that two of the teeth he lost, well, they were fake anyway.
Keith had a great line in a postgame interview, too, telling CBC TV: “My teeth weren’t that good to start with, so hopefully I get some better ones now.”