By Brad Vandenberk
After a gruesome loss on Sunday to their division rival Nashville Predators, the Chicago Blackhawks were on the road to play the New Jersey Devils. This would be the first and only meeting this year between the two clubs as each team came in sitting in the sixth position in their respected conferences. The Hawks are currently holding a five point lead in sixth, while the Devils are feeling the heat from the Ottawa Senators who are just two points behind them in the East. This game would mark the 17th straight contest that Jonathan Toews was not in the line up. The good news is he has been skating for seven consecutive days and sees a return in site. Duncan Keith was serving game two of his five game suspension given to him after hitting Canuck Daniel Sedin with a head shot just six days ago. On the brighter side, Steve Montador returned to the ice as a winger on the fourth line after missing 22 games with a concussion. He started with fourth line duties to ensure Monty eases himself back into game shape. Marcus Kruger also returned from an upper body injury giving the Hawks their second line center back. With the two players returning, Jimmy Hayes, Brendan Morrison and Michael Frolik were scratched. Carter Hutton was recalled from the IceHogs due to Ray Emery suffering an upper body injury during Sunday night’s debacle. Corey Crawford got the call from coach Q to start as fellow Quebecian Martin Brodeur was between the pipes for the Devils.
The game started off with Johnny Oduya giving the puck away, allowing the Devils to break in and test Crawford early. The Hawks looked like they were still looking for the snooze button as they were on their heels early. Crawford takes a puck high off the mask and looked to be a little rattled but remained in the contest. Brodeur looked like he came to play as he was blanking Blackhawks at every opportunity. Jamal Mayers gets a great chance, but the puck is deflected wide. Andrew Shaw takes the puck hard to the net and tries to jam it home. During the hard play by Shaw, Dave Bolland was tossed into the boards by Marek Zidlicky and the Hawks power play would get their first chance to score. The Devils are leading the NHL in penalty killing so this would be a tough task for the Hawks. The Devils lived up to their reputation only allowing one shot during the power play (editor’s note: this shot was later taken away from the Blackhawks by the official scorers. The Blackhawks have gone 8-consecutive power plays without registering a shot on goal per Chicago Tribune reporter Chris Kuc). At the 6:10 mark of the first period Seabrook tries to make a defensive play, but gets caught hooking. The Devils go on the power play and open the scoring. With just :09 left in the man advantage, the Hawks head for the hills on a bad line change and Adam Henrique puts a shot on net with Petr Sykora tipping it high past Crawford giving the Devils the lead with 4:18 left in the first. Brodeur begins to have the horse shoes fall from his goalie pants. He makes a toe save after the puck beats him through the five-hole keeping the shutout. Then Shaw has Cubs fever, batting a puck out of the air and ringing off the crossbar. Although the Hawks started off flat they outshoot the Devils in the 13-11.
The middle frame opened up with the Hawks cruising in on a 3 on 1 to try and tie the score. Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp break in with Hossa electing to place a muffin in Granny’s basket. Hawks begin to buzz, especially Viktor Stalberg who has two huge attempts to tie the game. Later Sean O’Donnell gets called for a hold on Zach Parise. The Hawks penalty kill kept the score at 1-0. Then another power play chance is awarded to the Hawks as Ilya Kovalchuk trips Niklas Hjalmarsson. Just as the Hawks were unable to register a shot on net, Bryce Salvador gets called for hooking, sending the Hawks on a 1:08 5 on 3. This made it quite clear why the Devils led the league in penalty killing as the Hawks were unable to register a shot on net with most of them getting blocked. The Devils killed off the 5 on 3 and ended the period still up 1 despite being outshot 10-4.
Devils head coach Peter DeBoer must have ripped a strip off his team during the intermission because the Devils came out flying. The Hawks D men took a page from the Devils book blocking shots. Parise was at the side of the net and had a great chance to give the Devils a two goal lead, but Nick Leddy is there to tip it high over the glass. Crawford was sharp for the early onslaught of Devils shots. Finally the Hawks get on the board. Bolland wins an offensive faceoff and the Hawks keep the zone. The puck gets over to Brent Seabrook who lets a howitzer go from the point. With Shaw and Bryan Bickell providing a perfect screen, Brodeur is unable to locate the puck and it slips under his blocker tying the game at 1 with 11:26 to play. Sharp was beginning to show his frustration not being able to solve Brodeur. He smashed his stick repeatedly off the boards after each of his scoring attempts. Brodeur then wraps a gift and sends the puck right up center ice. Kruger is there to put it right back in his glove. Sharp is robbed once again by the pad of Brodeur. With just 2:17 left in the game and the scored tied at 1, the Devils take a penalty, giving the Hawks a chance to win the game. Steve Bernier breaks Sharp stick with a slash. With 29 seconds left in the power play Hossa trips up Salvador and the Hawks enter Overtime shorthanded for 1:15.
The Hawks effort began to take over as they kill the 4 on 3 and have a few great chances to head home victorious. Crawford made some great saves, especially when Parise whacks a puck with one hand on goal. Seabrook walks in uncontested but again Brodeur is there to send the teams to a shootout.
The Devils shoot first as Kovalchuk heads to center ice. He tries to go backhand on Crawford, but the Hawks net minder was there with the pad.
Kane tries to give the Hawks the lead but his back hand is steered wide.
Parise tries to go five-hole, but Crawford is there to close up quickly.
Stalberg falls for the bait that Brodeur gives him by trying to go to the open glove corner. Brodeur is there to make the save.
Patrick Elias tries a similar move but Crawford can’t get his glove up quick enough and the Devils take the lead.
Sharp has the opportunity to keep the Hawks alive and makes it count, putting in just under the glove of Brodeur.
David Clarkson also tries to go backhand, with Crawford making the pad save once again.
Hossa walks in and tries to blast it past Brodeur, but he is there to squeeze the pads tight keeping the puck out.
Travis Zajac then comes in with some speed and beats Crawford again glove side.
Shaw with the final attempt to even the score hits his second post of the night and the Devils win the game 2-1.
-Hawks outshot the Devils 38-22.
-Devils went 1 for 3 on the power play with the Hawks dreadful power play going 0 for 4.
-Johnny Oduya led his new team against his old team in TOI with 29:56 edging out Seabrook by 6 seconds.
-Viktor Stalberg led all Hawks with 7 shots on goal.
-Kruger was the only Hawks center men in the pluses as he wins 4 for 7 in the dot.
-Steve Montador had 4:20 of ice time on the fourth line in his return.
-The Hawks gain a single point and are now in the 6th spot in the western conference with a 6 points lead on 7th spot and are only 3 points behind the Predators in 5th.
-The Hawks now return home to face the St Louis Blues on Thursday night, a team that they have had trouble with this year.
-Hawks are hopeful that captain Toews will be returning to the line up soon. He has yet to be cleared for contact.