By Brad Vandenberk
It was a night of debuts at the United Center on Wednesday. Newly acquired defenseman Johnny Oduya donned the number 27 and started the game paired with Brent Seabrook. Brandon Bollig answered the bat phone and was called up for duty. Bollig is 7th in the AHL in penalty minutes and was hoping to bring energy and grit to a Hawks team that has lost 3 straight games. The Hawks debuted their white jerseys at home as the Leafs chose this game to where their 3rd jersey’s which are a dark blue. Corey Crawford got the call for the home team and Jonas Gustavsson tried to right the good ship Maple Leaf. Jonathan Toews missed his 5th straight game with an upper body injury. Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson were still out with injuries as well. Sean O’Donnell, Michael Frolik and Brendan Morrison sat upstairs as five rookies would sport the Indian head. The Hawks had lost 12 of their last 16 coming in and the Leafs were not any better, as they had lost 9 of their last 10. This game would be a test of each goaltender as both teams have had shaky tendy’s. However, the Leafs haven’t beaten the Hawks in 9 years, 6 straight games.
Bollig’s call up and the Hawks recent injuries forced the Hawks roster to be thrown into the juggle-a-tron. Patrick Kane was back at center with his old pal Marian Hossa and veteran Andrew Brunette. Dave Bolland led out the recalled Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. Marcus Kruger played with Patrick Sharp and Viktor Stalberg. Finally the big boys, Jamal Mayer, Jimmy Hayes and Bollig completed the top 4 lines.
It didn’t take long to put worry on the UC crowd faces. Just 59 seconds into the period Bolland’s clearing attempt gets blocked by Joffrey Lupul shin pad. Stalberg’s old teammate, Tyler Bozak, jam’s the puck through Crawford and into the net. The Hawks respond right after with a nice rush by Sharp, but Gusty is there to make the save. Lupul would draw the first penalty of the game as he trips up Seabrook. The Hawks power play struggled once again as the Leaf’s goalie wasn’t tested. Brunette has a great chance, but Dion Phaneuf is there to make a great defensive play by lifting his stick. Shaw finally shows the organization why he belongs. He takes a puck off the corner boards and walks out toward the net. He lets a quick shot go and it makes in under Gustavsson’s blocker, taking the net cam out and tying the score at 1 with 8:59 remaining. Sharp takes a penalty for a hook and the Leafs find themselves on the power play for the first time in the game. Just 20 seconds into the power play Phil Kessel puts a shot on net and Lupul tips it high over Crawford. Then the Leafs strike again as Mikhail Grabovski gets a shot on net and with Crawford down and out, Clarke Macarthur goes roof and the Hawks are down by 2. As the period is about to expire, Keith rips a shot from the point and Kruger tips home the burnt biscuit. The period ended with the Hawks within a goal, down 3-2 and leading the shots on net by one 11-10.
As the teams took to the ice to open the second period Ray Emery entered the Hawks net. With Crawford allowing 3 goals on 10 shots the goalie carousel went into effect again. Less than 5 minutes in, the rough stuff began. Shaw raced for a puck that Gustavsson played out of his crease. His elbow hits The Monster high and Luke Schenn takes exception to this as and goes after Shaw. Gustavsson took a few minutes to get up but would stay in the net. After the dust settled Shaw come out with the extra penalty sending the Leafs back to the power play. Emery’s first test came on the power play as he stopped a barrage of pucks. As the game was nearing half way, Kane decided to show off his speed. Kane takes the puck in the zone. He takes a shot which is deflected in the air. He then catches the puck along the boards, slows it down and finds Sami Lepisto at the point. Lepisto’s blast is tipped by a battling Brunette in front of the net and Kane flips it up over Gusty tying the game once again. Hossa and Kane were dominating any line that coach Ron Wilson put out there. Kane then finds Hossa, who gains a step on Grabovski. As he is being hooked, Hossa puts a low shot off the post giving the Hawks their first lead of the game with 7:54 left in the period. Bollig decides to introduce himself to the crowd, with a knuckle chuck fest versus Luke Schenn. Bollig was claimed match winner as the smiling bruiser got the 21,244 fans to their feet. The Hawks almost add another late one with Hossa and Kane at it again. The second ends with the Hawks leading 4-3 and outshooting the Leafs 12-7.
The Leafs came out with a flurry of shots to open the final period. Emery stayed strong and kept the Hawks with the lead. Kane takes a careless penalty as he loses control of his stick and clips Cody Franson in the face. Good thing there was no blood, but the Hawks give the Leafs a chance to tie it. The Hawks were able to kill the penalty with some great defense and some even better saves by Emery. After the Hawks power play failed to register a goal with Tim Connolly in the box, Sami Lepisto, stick-less, made a kick save blocking a Matt Frattin point blank shot. Leddy made his way to the bench favouring his right arm after Phaneuf hit him hard into the boards. With 16 seconds remaining in the game Hossa blocks a shot as the Leafs have their extra attacker on. He hustles after the puck and puts it into the empty net giving the Hawks a 2 goal lead. The Leafs still showed fight, as Mike Brown tips a puck past Emery breaking his shutout streak with three seconds left. The Hawks get the much needed Win 5-4!
-Hawks outshot the Leafs 35-34
-Duncan Keith led the way once again in TOI 29:50.
-Hawks power play was 0 for 3 with the Leafs going 1 for 3.
-Hossa and Kane combined for 4 points and Nick Leddy led all defensemen with 2 sssists.
-Sharp was the only “centermen” with a winning faceoff percentage going 3 for 4.
-Johnny Oduya was a minus 3 for his first game with the Hawks, but did make up for it with some last minute defensive plays.
-Expect Emery to get the start on Friday night as the Hawks travel to his old barn in Ottawa. The game is Friday night at 6 C.