By Brad Gardner
After dropping the season opener in Dallas, the Blackhawks came out flying in the home opener in front of an announced 21, 647 at the United Center. Chicago jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second and it was enough of a cushion to hold off the Stars’ late push. The Hawks eventually walked away with a 5-2 win.
Andrew Raycroft was in net for the Stars despite Kari Lehtonen’s hurculean effort on Friday night in Dallas. Raycroft turned in a strong first period in keeping the puck out of the net – the Blackhawks outshot the visitors 10-2 in the first period – but Raycroft wasn’t handling too many shots cleanly.
Those miscues eventually cost him in the first period. On a Blackhawks’ power play, Patrick Sharp controlled the puck and tried to put it on net. His first attempt was blocked, but Sharp recovered and got his second attempt through to Raycroft. Andrew Burnette picked up the rebound and notched his first goal as a ‘Hawk with a backhander, putting Chicago on the board first.
Although Crawford was not challenged very much in the opening frame, he came up large after a Patrick Sharp turnover gave the Stars a golden opportunity. Sharp’s giveaway ended up on Steve Ott’s stick one-on-one with Crawford, who soaked up the shot and didn’t give the Stars a second opportunity.
Dallas held on through the rest of the first and was able to kill off another penalty early in the second period. Shortly after it went to even strength, though, Dave Bolland gained the zone and ripped a slap shot from outside of the faceoff circle. The shot beat Raycroft to the far corner and the Blackhawks took a two goal lead, which they would not relinquish.
Chicago’s third goal came after Jonathan Toews was whistled for a slash at 9:14 of the second period. The captain came out of the box and received a long pass up the middle from Brent Seabrook. Toews skated in alone on Raycroft and slipped it right between the goalies’ legs to make it 3-0.
The Stars would answer soon after when Vernon Fiddler beat Crawford top shelf from a tight angle. Fiddler played a nice give-and-go with Adam Burish to create the space and get in on Crawford.
With just over three minutes remaining in the second period, the Stars were called for a hooking penalty on Tom Wandell and a high-stick on Steve Ott shortly after. Coach Quenneville naturally took his timeout to prepare his troops for the all-important 5-on-3, but the ‘Hawks were unable to convert on the advantage.
The Blackhawks carried their two goal lead into the third period. They kept coming and Patrick Sharp was able to extend the elad back to three goals. He broke into the zone on a delayed penalty and ripped a shot over Raycroft’s shoulder.
Dallas answered one more time on the power play. After Marcus Kruger bravely threw his body in front of a Sheldon Souray blast, the blueliner sent his second shot in on net where it was deflected past Crawford by Steve Ott. The goal brought the Stars back within two goals, but that would be as close as they’d get.
Bolland scored his second of the game when he and Michael Frolik broke into the zone with an empty net. Frolik passed to Bolland at the blue line and he made no mistake with the open 4′-by-6′ cage.
– Dave Bolland’s starting to make a habit of these triumphant comebacks. His two goals in his season debut earned him the game’s first star honors. He stood out in other areas, too, leading the squad with five shots on net and winning 12 of his 18 faceoffs on the night.
– It wasn’t the strongest finish for the ‘Hawks, but they were mostly excellent through the first two periods. Dallas managed just two shots in the first period and nine shots through two periods against the Chicago defense, thanks in large part to their ability to control the puck and get into the opponent’s shooting lanes.
– Crawford turned in another solid effort. Though he did not see many shots in the first, the big save on Ott kept the momentum on the ‘Hawks side early. He was able to handle a majority of the shots he saw and hold onto them. Even when he did give up a rebound, they were getting directed to the corners rather than back out in front.
– Couple good shifts from the fourth line in this game. Kruger and Mayers skated together throughout the game with a mix of Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane, and John Scott (on one occasion). The line had a nice passing play on the rush that lead to an opportunity in the first. Mayers dropped the gloves right after the rush with former-Hawk Jake Dowell.
– At least we won’t have to hear about another slow start from Jonathan Toews this year. His goal in game two tonight was the fastest he’s scored in a season since his rookie year when he scored on his first shift.
– Brunette’s first goal of the game came on the power play, but the Blackhawks were held off the score sheet on their following six power plays. A parade of penalties by the Blackhawks in the third allowed the Stars to get back into the game in the third. Chicago’s penalty kill was still pretty effective in this game and held Dallas to just two shots on five power play opportunities.