Dec 212011
photo: Yahoo! Sports

By Brad Vandenberk

After losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center, the Chicago Blackhawks played host to the Habitant Du Montreal at the United Center.  With the biggest crowd of the year on hand to witness the original six matchup, and Hawks did not disappoint their faithful.

Corey Crawford saw his first action after six games on the bench during Ray Emery’s  5-game winning streak.  After suffering their first loss in regulation in December at the hands of the Penguins, it was time for Crawford to get a chance, here on the second game of a back to back.  The Canadiens went with Peter Budaj in net as they were holding off Carey Price for a matchup Thursday in Winnipeg.

Marcus Kruger did not play after taking a head shot from Penguins defensemen Deryk Engelland on Tuesday.  Dan Carcillo was placed on Injury Reserve and also was inactive.  John Scott and Sami Lepisto were the additional scratches.  Sean O’Donnell was placed in the defensive lineup and Brandon Pirri was called up from the AHL earlier in the day. 

With some of the Hawks missing in action, Coach Q changed his entire line up.  Jonathan Toews centered Patrick Kane and Andrew Brunette.  Newly called up Brandon Pirri had to show what he was made of as he took Kruger’s spot between Marina Hossa and Patrick Sharp.  The “checking” third line saw Dave Bolland center Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell.  Finally, the fourth line was made up of Jamal Mayers, Jeremy Morin and Michael Frolik.

Although the Hawks played the night before, they showed no signs of backing down.  Budaj was tested early on as Frolik and Morin broke in on a 2 on 1.  Budaj was there to close the door.  Duncan Keith hit the post with the rebound coming right back out to him for a second-chance opportunity.  Pirri sent Hossa on a half breakaway showing he belongs between the two superstars.

The Canadiens got their first chance on the power play as Stalberg was called for a hook.  The Hawks killed off the penalty and the first period ended with the scored tied at zeros and the Hawks and Les Canadiens with 7 shots a piece.

The Hawks opened the second with a lot of pressure in the offensive zone.  This forced Tomas Plekanec to shoot the puck over the glass and getting called for delay of game, sending the Hawks on their first power play.

With the Canadiens proved their top five ranking penalty killing as the Hawks had trouble trying to enter the zone and failed to score on the man advantage.  Later, Frolik couldn’t control his speed when he caught Budaj out of his net and was flagged for goaltender Interference.  During the Canadiens power play Plekanec let a shot go from the side boards and Andrei Kostitsyn tipped the puck up over Crawford, giving Montreal a 1-0 lead with 14:25 remaining in the second.

Another Hawks power play came when Stalberg broke through the zone and was held by ex-Hawk Michael Blunden.  Although the Hawks were unable to score on the power play, they did capitalize soon later.   Toews’ line kept the puck in the offensive zone.  Patrick Kane got the puck to Andrew Brunette behind the net, he walked out and banked a backhand off of Montreal’s P.K Subban.  The score was tied 1-1 with 8:24 remaining.

Just 21 seconds later, Marian Hossa made a great defensive play to get the puck up ice and hit Patrick Sharp.  Sharp walked in the offensive zone on a 2 on 2 with Brandon Pirri.  He used Pirri as a decoy, and put a shot on net which hit another ex-Hawk, Chris Campoli’s stick and fluttered past Budaj giving the Hawks their first lead of the game.  The period ended with Patrick Kane being called for a high stick and the Hawks out shooting the Habs 19-18.

Montreal entered the third period on the power play.  The Hawks kept the puck out of the zone and Crawford made a nice save to maintain the Hawks’ 1 goal lead.   Then, Bryan Bickell entered the offensive zone and let a shot go that went high over Budaj.  Bickell chased the puck behind the net and waited for Viktor Stalberg to come off the bench and enter the Canadiens zone.  Bickell found him in the slot and Stalberg slipped the puck under Budaj’s arm and gave the Hawks the 3-1 lead.  The Canadiens tried to get something going, but Crawford was sound after two weeks on the bench, shutting the door on all of Montreal’s opportunities in period three.

With 1:17 left in the game, Jonathan Toews picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and fired his 20th goal of the year into the empty net making the score 4-1.

They weren’t done there.  At the 11.8 second mark of the period Stalberg and Bickell broke in on a 2 on 1 and Stalberg returned the favour passing the puck to Bickell who found the back of the net giving the Hawks the 5-1 victory.

Quick Hits:

-Jonathan Toews recorded his 5th straight 20 goal season.

-Brandon Pirri had 1 assist and was a plus-2 in 16:37 of ice time in his first game back on recall from AHL Rockford.  Pirri also played in the first game of the season in Dallas and registered one helper in that contest as well.

Brent Seabrook had 2 assists and was a plus-3 in 22:53 of ice time.

-Newly united Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell combined for 4 point (1G, 1A each).

-Duncan Keith led all Hawks with 24:31 of TOI.

-The Hawks outshot the Canadiens 28-21.

-Hawks went 0 for 2 on the power play with Montreal going 1 for 3.

-Bryan Bickell, Patrick Sharp and Jamal Mayers led the Hawks with 4 shots on net.

-Sharp scored his 18th goal of the year in front of his new daughter who was in attendance.

-The Canadiens remain winless under their new head coach Randy Cunneyworth.

-3 stars of the game selected by Chicago media: 1-Corey Crawford, 2-Andrew Brunette, 3-Patrick Sharp

-The Hawks are now off until Boxing Day, as they play host to their division rival the Columbus Blue Jackets.

-The Hawks remain atop the NHL as they are now 22-9-4 with 48 points.

Brad Vandenberk

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