By Brad Gardner
The Blackhawks opened flat and never recovered in Carolina, dropping just their second game of the season in regulation by a score of 3-0. Cam Ward and Corey Crawford dueled through the first two periods, but the Hurricanes were able to break through for a pair of goals in the third to put the Blackhawks away.
The Hawks got a great first shift from the Jonathan Toews line, but Carolina got on the board first just over three minutes into the first period. When the two fourth line centers squared off for a faceoff to Corey Crawford’s left, Tim Brent tied up Marcus Kruger‘s stick and passed back to Tim Gleason at the point. Gleason’s wrist shot was deflected in the slot by Brent, the puck jumping off his stick and into the back of the net.
Later in the period, Patrick Kane was called for a double minor high-sticking penalty at the 14:27 mark of the first. It was actually the stick of Dan Carcillo that clipped Eric Staal just after the faceoff, forcing the Carolina captain to immediately make his way to the dressing room. The Canes power play unit, having gone just 1-for-13 over their last three games, managed only three shots on Crawford during the four minutes of man advantage time.
The Hurricanes picked up where they left off in the second, with Jeff Skinner coming up with a couple great opportunities. Jonathan Toews was whistled for a hooking penalty with the Hurricanes buzzing in the offensive zone, giving Carolina their third power play opportunity. Skinner had a golden opportunity early on the power play, but Crawford made the big glove save.
About 55 seconds into the Carolina power play, Skinner was called for a hooking penalty of his own. Chicago possessed the puck for a majority of the 4-on-4 but was unable to convert any chances. The short power play opportunity did not yield any chances either as the Hawks’ offense continued to misfire.
The Blackhawks received their second power play of the frame at 16:21 on an interference call behind the play on Patrick Dwyer, but it was a short-handed rush from Eric Staal that resulted in the best chance of the shift. Brent Seabrook was whistled for a hooking penalty as Staal barreled in on the breakaway, though replays showed there was little contact, and Staal was awarded a penalty shot. After a few quick dekes and slow-mo final move, Staal was unable to lift the puck over the sprawled Crawford, who kept his team within one.
Brandon Sutter put the Blackhawks back on the power play 3:33 into the third when he tripped Patrick Sharp skating through the neutral zone with speed. The Hawks had their best power play shift of the game, possessing the puck in the offensive zone for almost the entire two minutes and getting five shots on net.
Ward stood tall, however, making one last stop as the penalty expired on Marian Hossa driving into the offensive zone. McBain swiped the rebound out to the neutral zone right to Brandon Sutter, who was coming out of the penalty box. Sutter out-skated Seabrook and beat Crawford to the stick side on the breakaway to extend the Hurricane lead to 2-0 at the 5:39 mark of the third period.
The Hurricanes iced it at the 15:07 mark of the third. LaRose started the break from the defensive zone and Bryan Allen made a nice cross-crease pass to Jiri Tlusty for the Cane’s third goal of the game. Sean O’Donnell was caught behind the play because he tried to chip in offensively. He was unable to get back, leaving Hjalmarsson alone to battle the 2-on-1.
– Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville opened the evening with the same line-up. John Scott, Rostislav Olesz, and Sami Lepisto again watched from the press box. Quenneville tinkered with his lines through much of the second half of the game, including an appearance by the Sharp-Toews-Kane line in the third period.
– Carolina’s win ended a three-game losing skid and kept the Blackhawks winless at the RBC Center in Raleigh.
– Cam Ward continues to mystify the Blackhawks. He came into tonight’s game with a .963 save percentage in three career games against Chicago and proceeded to stop all 30 shots that he saw on the night. Although the Hawk forwards were able to get a little more traffic in front of him in the second half of the game, Ward gave up few second chances.
– Corey Crawford stopped 30 of the 33 shots that he saw on the night and kept his team close on great chances from Carolina throughout the game. He did not get a lot of help from his defense, particularly on the goals in the third period as the Hawk skaters tried to keep up the offensive pressure.
– The Blackhawks struggled so much on their early power play opportunities that their two shots matched the Hurricane’s short-handed shot total through two periods. The Chicago power play early in the third saw the team raise that total to seven shots on the power play, but any momentum gained was quickly nullified by Sutter’s goal coming out the box.
– Chicago fell to 2-2-0 on the road for the season. The power play, which was 0-4 against Carolina, has converted only one chance in 15 opportunities away from the United Center.
– The Hawks will return to Chicago Friday night in advance of their first game of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets, scheduled to begin at 7:30 PM at the United Center. A motivated Jackets team will take the ice, so the Hawks will need to bring a better effort to hold off their division foe.