By Brad Gardner
The Blackhawks controlled play for much of the game when they hosted the Washington Capitals at the United Center in the only meeting of the season between the two teams. Andrew Shaw opened the scoring and finished with two goals to lead the way in a complete team effort by the ‘Hawks in which they held Washington to just 18 shots en route to a 5-2 win.
The ‘Hawks scored first for the third straight game on a deflection by Shaw in front of the net. Bryan Bickell carried the puck over the line and hit Shaw with a rink-wide pass. He made a drag move around Brooks Laich to get to the center of the ice, but his shot was kicked out by the pad of Michal Neuvirth. Duncan Keith picked up the rebound and fired it back towards the traffic in front where it deflected off Shaw for a 1-0 Chicago lead.
The speed of Viktor Stalberg helped to extend the lead a few minutes later when he beat Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov to a loose puck and converted on the breakaway against Neuvirth. Sharp dumped the puck down the ice and Stalberg left Orlov in his dust on his way to recovering the puck and tucking the shot behind a downed Neuvirth.
Mike Knuble pulled his team back within a goal 2:22 into the second period on a quick release that beat Corey Crawford over the shoulder. Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s play up the boards was picked off by Keith Aucoin, who found Knuble open in the middle of the ice.
The ‘Hawks regained the two goal lead almost 8 minutes into second period on a goal by Patrick Kane and then made it a 4-1 lead later on Shaw’s second goal of the game. Kane worked a give-and-go and then was set up with a wide open net by Andrew Brunette. Shaw won a battle against defenseman Jeff Schultz on the endboards, carried behind the net, and then beat Neuvirth on a wrap around inside the far post.
Washington answered quickly on a goal from Ovechkin, who deked between his legs to abuse Keith on the rush. Crawford left his post a little too quickly, giving Ovechkin room to beat him short side as he broke in all alone. The goal was Ovechkin’s 30th of the season, making him one of nine players in NHL history to score 30 goals in each of his first seven NHL seasons.
Despite another two-goal lead at intermission, the home team’s first minor penalty of the game threatened to give the Caps some momentum. Even with the power play Washington only managed one even-strength shot in the first half of the third frame. The ‘Hawks had the better chances of the the period with the combination of Kane, Marian Hossa, and Brunette setting each other up for several great chances midway through the third.
Bryan Bickell iced it with an empty net goal at 18:12 of the third period. He looked for Shaw as he skated into the zone but ended up throwing the puck into the net from the red line.
– Crawford was not perfect in making 16 saves on 18 shots but he nevertheless earned his third consecutive win in net for the ‘Hawks. He benefited greatly from the limited chances allowed to the Capitals, but came up with a few key saves of his own to preserve the lead. Ray Emery returned to the bench as the back-up after not dressing for Friday’s game with the flu.
– Patrick Kane was all over the ice and led Chicago with five shots on goal. He made just as many attempts at setting up Brunette. Keith, Sharp, and Stalberg all finished with four shots.
– Chicago won 65% of the faceoffs, led by Jamal Mayers (8-of-10) and Marcus Kruger (6-of-8). Those numbers coupled with the home team’s ability to clog the neutral zone and prevent the Caps from establishing any consistent offensive pressure, it felt like another one-sided game as the ‘Hawks preserved their lead. They got constant pressure from the top three lines to help keep the puck in the Washington end.
– Keith, Oduya, and Kruger all had defensive zone giveaways in the first two minutes of the game. The team finished with 12 giveaways in total but only Hjalmarsson’s ended up hurting them.
– Just one lineup change for Joel Quenneville as Jimmy Hayes was a healthy scratch for the first time as a Blackhawk. Michael Frolik skated in his spot, having been scratched in eight consecutive games, with Jamal Mayers and Brandon Bollig on the fourth line.
– Linesman Dan Schachte worked the final game of his career and all of the referees wore the number 47 in his honor. His career began in 1982 at the Chicago Stadium and included a total of 2,009 NHL games. After the game both teams shook hands with Schachte in congratulating him and he was given a nice ovation from the United Center crowd as he left the ice.
– The Blackhawks skate again Tuesday in Columbus with a 6pm central puck drop.
In addition to covering the Blackhawks for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad is also the Blackhawks correspondent at HockeysFuture.com.