He can score again – photo credit: Yahoo! Sports
By Brad Vandenberk
With the Stanley Cup championship banner hanging from the United Center rafters, 5 ex champions, now Florida Panthers, invaded the place they called home, to play the Blackhawks. This would be the first time since winning the beloved cup that Kris Versteeg would play in the United Center. Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, Jack Skille and wily vet John Madden were all a big part of bringing the Stanley cup to Chicago and ending a 49 year drought.
Old man Winter played havoc on fans and players arriving for the 7:30pm puck drop. With the snow falling, players found themselves arriving late and even the Panthers’ bus was not able to get the team to the UC on time, forcing some players to take cabs to the arena. All this considered, the game was pushed back to an 8:08 pm start.
Jose Theodore got the call from coach Kevin Dineen and Coach Q went with Ray Emery as his starter.
The Hawks maintained the same lines as the previous game versus Buffalo. Jonathan Toews centered Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg. Marcus “Freddy” Kruger was put between Marian Hossa and rookie goal scorer Andrew Shaw. Dave Bolland saw Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Brunette on either side of him. That left Jamal Mayers taking care of the fourth line with Michael Frolik and Ben Smith. Bryan Bickell, Sami Lepisto and John Scott were all scratched. And, finally the puck is dropped!
During the first five minutes of the opening period, the Hawks only had two shots on net and owned the advantage. Versteeg had a great opportunity walking in the offensive zone and took it hard to the net, but Emery was there to make the save. Then it was Stephen Weiss’s turn. He tried to split between Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith to break in alone. Seabrook took his skates out from under him and receive the first penalty of the game. Just 52 seconds into the Panthers power play, Scott Upshall got his stick up into Frolik’s face. This would send him to the box and there would be some 4 on 4 for 1:08. The Hawks then got a 52 second power play where they did not register a shot on net. Hawks got another attempt on the power play with Madden being called for interference. On this power play, Toews took a puck, strong to the net. Leddy had a great shot from the point, but the score still remained tied at zero’s with 8:24 left.
At the 2:20 mark of the first period, Toews got a great pass from Kane and was sent in on a breakaway. He went to his back hand putting it over Theodore making the score 1-0. It was Toews 27th goal of the year. And what a beauty!
Moments after Toews goal, Keaton Ellerby drilled Shaw from behind sending him to the box for a boarding minor. During the power play Keith hammered a shot from the blue line and it gets past Theodore giving the Hawks a 2-0 lead at periods end.
Early in the second period, Toews was called for Hooking and the Hawks have to go to the penalty kill for the second time in the game. The Panthers were unable to beat Emery and the Hawks were perfect on the penalty kill so far. Blackhawks got another chance to put the Panthers to bed, as former Hawk Jack Skille gets called for a Hook. The Hawks had a few chances but were unable to solve Theodore. With 6:55 left in the second, Kane and Stalberg break in on a 2 on 1. Kane elects to keep the puck and go five hole on Theodore ending his 8 game goal less drought.
Late in the period Andrew Brunette batted a puck out of the air and found the back of the net. The official waived it off right away. Upon further review the call on the ice remained and the second period ends with the Hawks up 3-0 with both teams throwing 10 shots at the net.
As the ice was still fresh to start the third, Toews found himself skating to the box once again, as he is called for a trip. During the Panthers power play defensemen Jay Harrison’s shot, from the point, made it through the crowd and past Emery, cutting their lead to just two goals.
Hayes and Shaw were unable to continue their point streak, but had many opportunities to keep it alive. With Panthers goalie on the bench, Shaw attempted a wide open net barely missing. The final was 3-1 and the fans that braved the snow storm and showed up, got to see the Hawks win once again on home ice.
-Hawks went 1 for 4 on the power play. Panthers 1 for 3
-Hawks outshot the Panthers 22-19.
-Duncan Keith led all hawks with 29:16 of ice.
-Toews, Kane and Stalberg stayed hot and combined for 5 points.
-The only ex-Hawk to register a point tonight was Tomas Kopecky with 1 assist.
-Ray Emery wins his 10 game of the year.
-The Hawks now have the Central division lead back with 64 points with the Redwings (63) and Blues (62) keeping that division quite interesting.
-The Hawks will battle the snow to travel to Nashville where Saturday they take on another central division component who is just 6 points behind the league’s best. Saturday’s contest completes two-in-two for the Blackhawks and also represents the first of a home-and-home with the Predators.