By Larry Wigge
At this time of the year, the price you pay to get into position to score a goal becomes insurmountable. There is a measure of hand-to-hand combat. A measure of courage to score.
Marian Hossa's goal not immediate. It was not without an extra effort of will on his part ... sort of like a goal in slow motion.
"I keep tugging away at the puck," Hossa explained. "Henrik Zetterberg has me tied up pretty good ... but I reached inside myself for a little extra strength."
Marian Hossa has scored nearly 450 goals in his career. None was more satisfying then the one he scored Monday night to start the scoring on the power play for the Chicago Blackhawks as they tied the contest and evened the Western Conference Semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings at three games apiece, 4-3.
The Stara Lubovnia, Slovakia, native, has played in just over 1,000 games in the NHL with Ottawa, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Detroit and now Chicago with various degrees of success. He had made it to the Stanley Cup finals with Pittsburgh in 2008, Detroit in 2009, before winning it all with Chicago in 2010.
So, he knows the kind of tugging and hooking and holding you can and can't get away with.
Hossa fought off Zetterberg, one the league's fiercest competitors, in the goal crease to open the scoring.
Said Hossa, "You have to keep tugging away ... until you can't give any more."
Later in the third period, he pulled off an amazing soccer pass to Jonathan Toews, who passed the puck along to Brian Bickell for the go-ahead score at 3-2.
On this occasion, Hossa was being tied up in the right corner by Pavel Datsyuk, another of the fiercest rivals, and Kyle Quincey, who had broken his stick.
"I couldn't use my hands," he said. "I had to kick the pass along to Toewsy and continue to tie up both players."
For the game, Hossa managed three shots and one goal and one assist -- giving him five goals and five assists in 11 playoffs games.
It was just last year that Hossa was taken off the ice with a stretcher suffering a concussion in a senseless hit by Phoenix forward Raffi Torres in the third game of the playoffs.
Torres was suspended for 25 games. The effects of the concussion were still bothering Hossa at nearly Thanksgiving.
"I came to the game with no hard feelings," Hossa said. "I tried to take it as another game for me and just prepared as I always do. It is a big two points ..."
Hossa thought for a moment, then he responded.
"I was worried about the concussion when it was the beginning of November and that's why I practiced so hard to be comfortable going into corners," Hossa continued. "After I was medically cleared in mid-November then I was happy where I was. My head ... it was clear."
Torres reached out to Marian Hossa about a week after he delivered the illegal hit that knocked the Blackhawks' winger out for the rest of the series.
"Around five days or a week after the hit, he contacted me," Hossa revealed. "It was nice that he contacted me. But I told him that I was upset. I said, 'I know we were playing that way, but the thing that upset me was the jump.' If he didn't jump, maybe I would have still been hit hard ... maybe I wouldn't have hit my head and he wouldn't have 25 games. The phone conversation was pretty quick .. and that was it."
Hossa said he doesn't remember much from the hit.
"I saw the replay a few days later and that's how I remember," he said. "I remember a few seconds of seeing (team physician Dr. Michael Terry) on the ice and I don't remember being in the dressing room. I remember a little bit in the ambulance and I woke up in the hospital. I only remember a few seconds."
It’s hard to argue with the suspension, however, especially considering how the hit left Hossa.
"Let's put it this way: It's not fun. I spent one week basically sitting at home in a dark room."
A little time ... and space.
"All it takes sometimes is a little spark for a guy as skilled as Hoss," said Johan Franzen. "You give him a little time and space and you'll regret it. He's that good around the net."
Hossa explained, "I had the chance to play against them in 2008 and I know how hard it is. They are good defensively, but they can also move the puck as quick as anybody."
"Winning it all ... that's what it's all about," said Hossa. "That's why you play the whole year."
And Marian Hossa isn't afraid that he might have to pick himself up off the ice and dust himself off along the line if it means having a chance to get to the Stanley Cup Finals ... once again.