Dec 032011
Hossa Face – photo: Yahoo! Sports

By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks brought a better effort in the second half of the back-to-back, downing the division rival St. Louis Blues by a score of 5-2.

Ray Emery earned his fourth win of the season over the Blues’ Brian Elliott, who has been one of the league’s top goalies so far this season. The see-saw opening 30 minutes included the Blues relinquishing a pair of one-goal advantages to the ‘Hawks before Chicago’s special teams took over in the middle frame to capture and secure the lead for the visiting Blackhawks.

Blues forward David Perron returned to the line-up for his first game since November 4th, 2010, having missed 97 games while he was out with a concussion. In his second shift of the game, Perron continued his torment of the Blackhawks with the game’s opening goal.

Patrik Berglund’s centering pass deflected off a Chicago skate and rolled directly onto Perron’s stick in front of the Chicago goal. The winger had time and patiently played the puck to his forehand before roofing his shot over a downed Emery. Steve Montador was the closest ‘Hawk, but was unable to make the play with his stick as it was tangled up in Blues forward Matt D’Agostini.

Elliott stopped a few good chances from Chicago in the first period, but the ‘Hawks finally solved the red-hot netminder in the opening minute of the second. Niklas Hjalmarsson fired a low shot from the blue line towards the St. Louis net. The shot was deflected past Elliott by Jonathan Toews to knot the game at 1-1.

St. Louis would answer at the 8:10 mark of the second on a wrist shot from Chris Stewart. Andrew Brunette controlled the puck along the boards in his defensive zone but was accosted from behind by Vladimir Sobotka. The Blues winger took a second to check for a penalty before making the quick pass to a wide open Stewart. He hit his spot in the top corner of Emery’s glove side to put St. Louis back on top.

Despite falling behind for the second time in the game, the Chicago special team units came alive in the second period. Marian Hossa scored his second shorthanded goal of the season with the lone assist going to Duncan Keith, who stepped up and picked off a long pass attempt by Kevin Shattenkirk through the neutral zone.

Less than three minutes later, Patrick Sharp put the Blackhawks in the lead on the power play with a wrist shot through traffic and over Elliott’s glove. Sharp’s goal gave the ‘Hawks their first lead of the game and they would carry that 3-2 lead into the second intermission.

The ‘Hawks opened the third period with the slim lead but nearly two minutes left on a 4-on-3 power play opportunity. Joel Quenneville sent out four forwards with the 4-on-3 advantage. With Toews battling in front, the other three forwards played catch in the offensive zone. A Patrick Kane pass attempt to Sharp missed the target, but Sharp was able to control it with his skate and tap it towards Hossa in the slot. He ripped a slap shot through the legs of Elliott to extend the Chicago lead to 4-2 just 77 seconds into the third period.

Michael Frolik iced the game with an empty-netter after a steal in the offensive zone, making it a final score of 5-2.

Game Notes:

Bryan Bickell was scratched for the second consecutive game in favor of Ben Smith. John Scott and Sami Lepisto both sat out of this one as well.

– The most notable line-up change was Viktor Stalberg and Daniel Carcillo switching spots up front. Stalberg played an energized game on the fourth line, while Carcillo rode shotgun with Toews and Kane for most of the night.

– Special teams was the key for the ‘Hawks. The power play converted on two of three chances, but it was the timing of those goals that made the biggest difference. Sharp’s power play goal put Chicago ahead just a few minutes after they managed to tie the game again. Hossa’s tally extended that lead early in the third period before St. Louis could get any kind of offense going in the third.

– The Chicago penalty kill was perfect in four opportunities. Two of those kills were in the third period and prevented the Blues from getting any momentum back in the final frame. Hossa came up with the shorthanded goal in the second, making it two consecutive games with a shorty for the ‘Hawks.

– Not the sharpest game from the Razor – he let up a slew of rebounds and gave the Blues an awful lot of net. He ended up with respectable numbers, 23 saves on 25 shots, but it could have been a lot worse. Chicago blocked 17 shots (Niklas Hjalmarsson led the way with seven of his own) and St. Louis missed the net entirely on 18 of their shot attempts, twice as many as the ‘Hawks sent wide. T.J. Oshie and Chris Stewart wasted especially good opportunities against Emery with errant shots.

– Brian Elliott entered the game with a 10-1 record, including six consecutive wins. Chicago’s barrage of scoring was the first time Elliott had given up three or more goals all season.

– Not surprisingly, there was plenty of action after the whistle in the game but the Blackhawks stood tall against the aggressors on the Blues. Daniel Carcillo made the most of his opportunity on the top line by flying into a couple scrums in defense of guys like Toews and Kruger. The extracurriculars should make for an exciting finish to the season series between these blood rivals, assuming all is not forgotten over the course of the two and a half months before they match up again on February 19th.

– The ‘Hawks will attempt to trudge through the quicksand that is the Phoenix Coyotoes on Monday night at the United Center. That game will be a 7pm start for the Versus broadcast.

Brad Gardner

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