By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks got some big games from a pair of former Ottawa Senators Friday night to get a three game road trip off to a promising start. Marian Hossa and Ray Emery figured heavily in the outcome as the Blackhawks bested a hot Senators squad by a 2-1 score.
The Hawks came up short on a golden opportunity four minutes in when Hossa took control of the puck in the Senators zone. He brought the puck behind the net and found Patrick Kane at the face off circle. Kane made a nice pass to Andrew Brunette. Despite there being plenty of open net, Brunette couldn’t get a handle on the pass, which looked like it was deflected.
Kane garnered a breakaway in the ninth minute but an active stick by Matt Gilroy prevented a shot. A Jared Cowen interference penalty at the 10:06 mark gave the Blackhawks a few shots on the power play, but as has been the case of late nothing came of it.
Instead, it was the Senators who got on the board first late in the period. Jason Spezza brought the puck out of the Ottawa zone, across the red line and reached the Blackhawks zone. Coming across the blue line, Spezza tried to get the puck in deep. Instead, the puck glanced off of Dave Bolland and onto the stick of Milan Michalek, who was coming up the middle of the ice. Michalek’s shot clanged off the posts and into the net to make the score 1-0 Senators with 4:25 remaining in the first.
Chicago rallied to generate some scoring chances after the goal. Brunette had another good look when Kane walked the puck to the net and Viktor Stalberg took a feed from Patrick Sharp, but couldn’t get a shot on net. The Blackhawks outshot their hosts 17-9 in the first 20 minutes, but were still down 1-0 going into the locker room.
Chicago generated another great scoring chance to lead off the second period when Johnny Oduya connected with Sharp on a long pass up the middle. A hooking penalty by Sergei Gonchar resulted in a penalty shot, but Lenehr gloved the attempt.
A few minutes later, Bryan Bickell drew a delayed penalty from Chris Phillips, leading to Bickell scooping a rebound off of a Sharp shot to tie the game at the 5:14 mark. Brunette was tripped by Gilroy midway through the period to set up another opportunity with a man up.
This time, the Blackhawks converted. Hossa grabbed a rebound in front of the net off of another Sharp attempt. Hossa wrapped around the goal and stuffed the puck past Lehner to give Chicago a 2-1 lead that they would take to the intermission despite a late Ottawa surge in the last five minutes.
It was the Senators who had an early scoring opportunity in the third period, courtesy of a Stalberg trip in the third minute. Spezza beat Emery but drew iron on the shot and the Blackhawks killed the penalty. Just after the penalty expired, Gilroy found himself with an open net with Emery on the ice. The attempt was high, however.
The Senators began hurling themselves at the Chicago defense as the clock started to become a factor. Emery stopped a point blank attempt when Spezza centered Daniel Alfredsson with 5:58 to go. He did the same to Jim O’Brien a few seconds later. The Blackhawks survived the onslaught, including the last 30 seconds when Lehner was pulled for an extra skater.
-Lehner was the equalizer Friday, as the Blackhawks controlled play for most of the game and outshot the Senators 34-16 for the first two periods. Lehner stopped 37 of 39 shots and made it his personal crusade to keep Brunette from scoring.
-Most of Brunette’s opportunities were created by Kane, who has stepped it up in the absence of Jonathan Toews. He also got five of his own shots on net. If Brunette and Hossa could have converted on half the great chances Kane created for them, this game could have been a blowout.
-Andrew Shaw played 17:40 and had a great game in his own zone with Dave Bolland and Bickell, who is also playing well at an opportune time. Shaw found himself on a breakaway in the third, but lost the handle before he could challenge Lehner.
-Brandon Bollig and Jimmy Hayes saw limited minutes, but Bollig make it a point to come to Hayes’ aid after the big forward took a big shot from Cowen.
-Emery allowed just one goal on 26 shots. Friday morning, Joel Quenneville said that if Emery grabbed the crease that “he can have it.” Will he get the chance to tighten his grip on the crease Sunday in Detroit?
-With Buffalo beating San Jose yesterday, Chicago created a little breathing room for themselves. They beat a hot team in their own barn and played one of their better games of the season while doing it.
-Next up for the Hawks is a pair of tough division road games with the Red Wings and Blues. Sunday’s start in Detroit is at 3:00 p.m.