Jan 312013

By Jon Fromi

Hey, it was bound to happen.

The Chicago Blackhawks picked up a point Wednesday to open a six-game road trip, but came up a few inches short as they dropped their first game of the 2013 season.

Niklas Backstrom recorded 28 saves in relief of Josh Harding as the Blackhawks lost 3-2 in a shootout.

Minnesota got on the board quickly.  Just ninety seconds following the opening faceoff, the Wild won a draw in the Chicago zone.  Mikael Granlund, who bested Marcus Kruger for possession, fired the puck on goal and Corey Crawford allowed a rebound in front of the net. Crawford stopped a put-back by Matt Cullen, but Cullen pounced on a second rebound attempt to give his team a 1-0 advantage.

Chicago’s first shot on goal was a Patrick Sharp attempt that clanged off of the crossbar and was looked at by the officials at the next stoppage of play. The replay didn’t go Chicago’s way. By that point, however, the Hawks had their equalizer.

Bryan Bickell went in hard to the net with the puck got the puck to the front of the crease.  Andrew Shaw took the feed and stuck it past Harding into the upper right corner of the net at the 5:14 mark.

Seconds later, Marian Hossa got possession in the Minnesota zone and found Jonathan Toews. The captain came up the left side and got off a shot from the faceoff circle that beat Harding by way of the five-hole. 6:45 into the game, Chicago led 2-1.

Following Tazer’s tally, Wild coach Mike Yeo yanked Harding for Niklas Backstrom and Minnesota controlled the action for the next few minutes. The Hawks held off a furious 5-on-3 assault on the part of the Wild in the seventeenth minute, highlighted by a diving stop by Crawford to deny Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

The Hawks kept the one-goal advantage into the first intermission.

The Wild evened it up quickly in the second period, again off of a lost draw in Chicago’s zone. Cal Clutterbuck redirected Tom Gilbert‘s shot attempt 59 seconds into the period. Though the Blackhawks outshot Minnesota eight to four in the middle frame, the score remained knotted at two goals apiece.
The third period saw a continuation of the defensive struggle we saw in the second. The Hawks continued to generate the majority of scoring chances but Backstrom held firm. Minnesota surged in the fifteenth and sixteenth minutes, but Crawford was up to the challenge, deflecting Devin Setoguchi’s redirect attempt.

With 2:05 to play, Patrick Sharp was called for hooking Mikko Koivu. Even with Kruger losing his stick, the Blackhawks turned away the Wild, earned a point and sent the game into their second straight overtime session.

Both teams had their chances in the extra five minutes, but Backstrom and Crawford weren’t about to let the game end. As a result, Chicago came out for their first shootout of the season.

Zach Parise led off by deking Crawford for the goal, only to be equaled as Toews went five-hole on Backstrom. Koivu’s backhand was knocked away by Crawford’s glove, while Kane’s backhand attempt couldn’t get over Backstrom’s pad.

Cullen five-holed Crawford, leaving the game on Sharp’s stick. Unfortunately, his shot found the crossbar for the second time on the night and the win streak ended at six games.


–I thought it was a little unfair for Doc Emerick to infer that Harding was being pulled because of problems with his health.  Harding was diagnosed with MS over the summer, but he’s played pretty well so far this season. I thought it was a pretty quick hook, but it proved to be a good move. Harding sure
was pissed, though.

–The Bickell-Shaw-Stalberg line combo had another nice outing, generating several big scoring chances.

— After Crawford gave up the eventual game-winner, my nine-year old, who had stopped in for the last minutes of regulation, commented that the Blackhawks had the worst goalie in the world. Spoken like a true meathead. Crawford was as good or better on this night than he was in the five games he’s
won in net. Stopping 23 of 25 shots just wasn’t good enough in the face of Backstrom’s effort, which earned him first star of the game honors.

Brandon Bollig cracked the seven-minute mark (7:27 to be exact), kept his gloves on, and was on the ice for three shifts in the third period. Good for him.

–Minnesota bested the Hawks 34-32 on the night. With those two extra wins, the Wild netted both of their regulation goals.

–The loss was a little frustrating in that Chicago had the fresher legs in the final 20 minutes but couldn’t capitalize. That actually was the case for most of the last 40 minutes as the Blackhawks won the puck possession battle.

–Next up on Friday is the Canucks Enjoy the late start with no work (hopefully) to fret about.

Jon Fromi

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