Not his fault, but Timonen caught in poor position
CHICAGO - All Kimmo Timonen could do was look over, accusingly, at referee Dan O'Halloran. Moments earlier, Timonen had been headed for the northwest corner of the United Center's rink, a half-stride ahead of Marian Hossa. O'Halloran was in their way. He impeded Timonen, who, entangled with the referee, failed to gain possession of the puck.
CHICAGO - All Kimmo Timonen could do was look over, accusingly, at referee Dan O'Halloran.
Moments earlier, Timonen had been headed for the northwest corner of the United Center's rink, a half-stride ahead of Marian Hossa. O'Halloran was in their way. He impeded Timonen, who, entangled with the referee, failed to gain possession of the puck.
That retention of possession led to the Blackhawks' first goal of last night's 7-4 loss, a Game 5 defeat that sent the series back to Philadelphia a game away from the Flyers' season's end.
"I was kind of [ticked] off," Timonen said. "I had the puck. I ran into the referee. I could have gotten the puck out of the zone. . . . Things happen quickly. He couldn't move anywhere. I can't really blame him."
It was the only time last night, as his teammates played flawed and weakly, that Timonen was powerless, or imperfect.
With star defenseman Chris Pronger muzzled by line changes that split the Blackhawks' better players, Timonen needed to play his best.
For those who understand the sport's nuances, he almost always does.
"Kimmo has been excellent all year," said coach Peter Laviolette before last night's game. "He plays the game every bit as good as Chris Pronger. Defensively, he's always in position."
When you're 5-10, maybe, and Pronger is 6-6, being in position becomes more obvious. When you're sneaky-mean like Timonen, as opposed to overtly evil like Pronger, the effects of your game are harder to parse. When you're the quiet guy who has been around for three seasons instead of the mouthy guy traded for in the offseason to cement the defense and make a Cup run, you lose the spotlight.
But you don't lose value.
"I think there's a different physical element when it comes to Chris' game as opposed to Kimmo's," Laviolette continued. "But Kimmo is a good first-pass, always in position, can play against anybody's best players on any given night and be successful."
Indeed, it was Timonen who guided the Flyers on their playoff run 2 years ago.
He has forged a fine 11-year career, the first eight in Nashville, all 11 ringless. He's been a steady 50-point guy.
He finally got his first playoff goal as a Flyer, a wrist shot just under 5 minutes into the second period, fired high - goalie Antti Neimi's weakness - over the prone body of Hawks defenseman Brent Sopel. That score made it 4-2, the second goal of the period's short life, and secured, for the Flyers, momentum.
But the Flyers squandered that momentum, so Timonen, ever selfless, enjoyed it not a whit.
"We had times when, after I scored, we could have made it 4-3 or 4-4. Antti made a couple of nice saves there, but we actually missed the net a couple of times. That was the key time in the game for us," Timonen said. "We couldn't score."
And all he could do was minimize the damages.
It was his stick that deflected Patrick Kane's snap shot early in the third, his steal that covered up Braydon Coburn's turnover seconds later.
It was his cross-ice pass to Lukas Krajicek that led to James van Riemsdyk's goal in the third, cutting the deficit again to two goals, 5-3. That gave Timonen 11 playoff points . . . but that's seldom the point with him.
It was his invisible crosscheck in the third that sent Marian Hossa to the Blackhawks bench with a grimace.
All the sort of stuff Laviolette loves.
"I don't really care. It's nice that he said that. Attention-wise, I don't really care. I just go out there and do my job as good as I can," Timonen said. "If somebody recognizes my work, that's good. If they don't, it doesn't really matter to me."
He does not covet the attention lavished on his high-profile teammates. He held no grudge against O'Halloran.
Or, maybe Timonen knew accounts balance themselves.
Since hockey is such a cyclical thing, what went around came around, in the same spot.
All Timonen could do was look back, inquisitively, at O'Halloran.
Moments earlier, Timonen had chased a puck into that same northwest corner. Byfuglien came after him, hard, and hammered Timonen, who still was a couple of feet from the boards.
With O'Halloran in between him and the glass.
Byfuglien's 257 pounds launched Timonen's 194 pounds into O'Halloran. O'Halloran's right shoulder and, to a lesser extent, his head, hit the boundary and bounced off before O'Halloran fell to the ice.
Timonen looked back with concern.
But without pity.