Sergei Krivokrasov, playoff hero. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, and it certainly doesn't seem feasible.
Here's a guy who didn't play much for the Chicago Blackhawks even when he was healthy, and he was rarely healthy this season. The team's first-round draft pick in 1992, Krivokrasov had only 19 goals in 100 regular-season NHL games and had never scored in the playoffs.Given the chance to skate on Chicago's top line after a third-period injury to Tony Amonte, however, Krivokrasov scored 46 seconds into overtime Monday night to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 of the Western Conference semifinals.
"I've been watching so much hockey and not playing. It's been hard," said Krivokrasov, who was playing in only his fifth game since spraining a knee Jan. 31. "I just kept working hard and hoping something good would happen."
Although Chicago couldn't have had a more unlikely hero, the 22-year-old Russian envisioned he would be the one to score the game-winner.
"Before the overtime, I sat in the locker room and had a feeling I would score the winning goal," said Krivokrasov, who capped a comeback from a 3-1 deficit that began with goals by Joe Murphy and Jeremy Roenick. "I can't really tell you why, but I did. This is the biggest goal, the biggest moment, of my life."
The playoffs continue Tuesday night with Pittsburgh at New York and Philadelphia at Florida in Eastern Conference action. Both series are tied 1-1. The other series resumes Wednesday, with Detroit taking a 2-0 lead into St. Louis.
On the game-winning play, Eric Daze poked the puck away from defenseman Craig Wolanin and fed Krivokrasov in the right circle. Krivokrasov took a wrist shot, and the puck deflected slightly off Wolanin's stick before going over goaltender Patrick Roy's right shoulder.
"Unfortunately, I didn't see Daze until I got the puck," Wolanin said. "It happened so quickly. I had the puck, then I looked up and boom!"
It appears Krivokrasov will be skating on the first line with Roenick and Daze again Wednesday, when the teams play Game 4 in Chicago. The series returns to Colorado on Saturday.
Though the Blackhawks are calling Amonte's injury a bruised knee, he left the locker room in a wheelchair and his right knee was in a brace. Coach Craig Hartsburg said he'd know more about Amonte's injury by tonight.