By Brad Vandenberk
The Chicago Blackhawks completed their 2 game home stand on Sunday night, before embarking on their annual 6 game circus road trip. First, they had to get past the high flying Edmonton Oilers, who have completely turned their fortunes around from last season. Edmonton entered Sunday’s contest in first place in the Northwest Division. This game would end an Oilers’ 6-game road trip.
Corey Crawford started in goal facing off with his old mentor in Nikolai Khabibulin. Dave Bolland did not dress for the 3rd straight game with a foot injury, but will travel with his teammates and likely play on the upcoming road swing.
The opening period began with the Hawks pressuring the Oilers zone. It paid off early as Jonathan Toews received a pass from Viktor Stalberg behind the net, then walked out in front and put a high shot over Khabibulin making the score 1-0 Hawks at 4:55 of the opening period. This came after Taylor Hall went hard to the net and hit the cross bar at the other end of the ice surface.
Just 43 seconds later Steve Montador scored his second goal of the season. Patrick Kane sent Montador a pass after entering the zone and the defenseman showed a Kane-like move to get around an Oiler defensemen, and tuck the puck past Khabibulin making the score 2-0 Hawks.
Later in the period, Edmonton closed the gap when Ryan Smyth beat Duncan Keith to a dumped puck. Smyth then took the puck hard to the net and banged in his own rebound cutting the Hawks lead to just 2-1 with 8:10 left to go in the first.
Toews drew the first penalty of the game as he was held by Oiler Jordan Eberle. Queue the Hawks new look power play unit. Montador, standing in the slot, tipped home a point shot from Nick Leddy earning his second goal of the night. Keith also picked up an asisst on the goal, giving a rare occasion when 3 defenseman earn a point on a score. A solid first period ends with the Hawks up 3-1, and also out shooting the Oilers 10-8 and leading in hits 12-5.
Toews started the second period where he left off in the first. 22 seconds in, Toews goes strong to the net and is able to get the puck past Khabibulin for his second of the game giving the Hawks a 3 goal lead.
With Rostislav Olesz in the box for holding Ben Eager, Jordan Eberle found himself back in the penalty box after high sticking Brent Seabrook in the face. When Eberle’s penalty expired, he jumped out of the box and beat Keith to a loose puck. Eberle broke in on Corey Crawford and scored making it 4-2 with 13:39 left in the second period.
Just a 1:26 later, Keith let a shot go from the point. With Stalberg creating a screen in front, the puck goes through Khabibulin giving the Hawks another 3 goal lead, 5-2.
Scary moment in the second as Brent Seabrook headed into the offensive zone and lost an edge going hard into the boards. He went straight to the Hawks bench and did not return for the rest of the game.
With two minutes to go in the middle frame, Stalberg picked up a 2 minute penalty for playing with a broken stick, sending the Oilers on a power play. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found Shawn Horcoff in front of the net, who tipped a puck past Crawford. The second ends with the Hawks up 5-3 and still owning the shot advantage 22-16.
The final period saw the Hawks still trying to put pucks in the net as Marian Hossa, Jamal Mayers and Dan Carcillo all had point blank chances to add the 6th goal of the night. With 1:45 left in the game and the Oilers net empty, Kane and Carcillo break in on a 2 on 1. Kane selflessly passed up the empty-net chance and dished over to Carcillo who put the puck into the wide open net, making the final 6-3.
–The Blackhawks out shot the Oilers 35-23.
–The three stars of the game were 3) Hossa, 2)Eberle, 1)Toews. (Leddy, Toews, Montador as selected by the Chicago media)
–The Hawks blue line combined for 6 points on the night. Steve Montador scored a pair. Duncan Keith had 1G, 1A and Nick Leddy added 2 assists leading all Hawks defensemen with 12 points.
–Brent Seabrook left the game after the second period with an apparent knee injury and did not return. He will be evaluated on Monday morning.
–Nick Leddy led all Hawks with 27:20 TOI. While Toews led the way with 7 shots on goal.
–Hawks were 1 for 4 on power plays, while the penalty kill allowed 1 Oiler goal.
–Hawks travel to Western Canada, where they will seek revenge in Vancouver on Wednesday Night. This will be the first of 6 road games in a 2 week span.
–With the Hawks record now at 11-4-3 (25 points), they now lead the entire NHL.