By Brad Gardner
The Blackhawks got back into the win column on Saturday night in Calgary, pulling out a 3-2 victory in their third consecutive game decided by shootout.
Patrick Kane scored the deciding goal in the shootout, but Ray Emery was the story of the game. Making just his second start of the season, the veteran goaltender made 45 saves against perpetual pressure from the Calgary Flames.
Emery saw plenty of action in the opening frame, but apart from a couple rebounds let out in front of his net, he did not have any trouble getting locked into the game early.
He showed good positioning, making an early save on a Dennis Wideman shot that was deflected in front of the net. Emery also received a little help from the post in the latter half of the period. Following a quick give-and-go with Alex Tanguay, Mike Cammalleri saw some open net to the far side but drew iron with a one-timed shot.
Both teams also had prime scoring chances in the second period, but again neither team could convert. The Hawks came up with some of their best opportunities of the game early in the second period.
Marian Hossa found himself on a breakaway on Kiprusoff, but the goaltender, with a little help from his defenseman Wideman, got enough of Hossa’s five-hole shot to keep it from crossing the goal line.
Shortly after, Jonathan Toews found Kane as he entered the zone. Kane’s shot, however, was deflected up and over the net by the skate of Mark Giordano as the Flames’ defenseman was knocked down in front of the net.
Calgary had opportunities of their own, including two grade-A chances for Jarome Iginla, who is still looking for his first goal of the season. Iginla found himself with two open chances, but Emery was able to close his five-hole against an Iginla breakaway and got enough of another close look from the Calgary captain on the rush.
Through two periods, which included two man advantages, Calgary led in shots by a count of 20-12. Although the home team had soundly outplayed the visitors through two periods, the game got out of hand in the third period as the ice tilted towards Calgary’s offensive zone.
Curtis Glencross had more scoring chances in the third period than the Blackhawks had shots, but the Flames second-leading scorer could not convert. Emery began giving up more second and third opportunities and didn’t get a lot of help from the team in front of him when it came to clearing loose pucks or getting out of the defensive zone.
Despite the Flames’ pressure, Kane was the first to get on the board at the 4:08 mark of the third period. Patrick Sharp went upstairs on Kiprusoff but the puck bounced off his mask. Giordano whiffed as he tried to sweep the puck away and Kane was able to get it through Kiprusoff while he was down on the ice to put the Blackhawks up 1-0.
The Calgary pressure did not let up, they wound up out-shooting Chicago 24-6 in the third period alone, and Wideman was eventually credited with the first goal given up by Emery. With the Flames on the power play after Duncan Keith knocked Emery’s net off the moorings, Wideman had a centering pass deflect right to him. Wideman took his time with it and threw the puck into the crease, where it deflected into the net off what appeared to be the skate of Brent Seabrook as he battled against Iginla.
A Niklas Hjalmarsson tripping penalty shortly after put Calgary back on the advantage with less than four minutes in regulation, but the Blackhawks’ were able to kill it off. Emery came up huge on Glencross again, making an initial stop on a chance in front and then stoning Glencross’ backhand attempt off the rebound.
Jay Bouwmeester nonetheless managed to give the Flames their first lead of the game at 19:25 of the third period. Former Red Wing Jiri Hudler found the defenseman driving the slot and he made no mistake on his snap shot, beating Emery to the far side as he skated up the right slot.
It looked like the Blackhawks’ run of avoiding regulation losses was coming to an end but Marian Hossa came up huge with a goal in the final seconds of regulation. The Blackhawks controlled the puck off a defensive zone draw in the final minute, allowing them to transition to the offensive zone and get Emery to the bench for the extra attacker.
Although the Hawks controlled the puck, they did not get too many pucks towards the net. Hossa made one attempt from the point but it was blocked by the Calgary forward. Hossa made an important play to keep the deflected puck in the zone and maintain possession for the Hawks.
After more possession in the offensive zone, Johnny Oduya centered the puck from the sideboards towards the traffic in front of the net. The puck wound up on Hossa’s stick, who elevated it over a downed Kiprusoff to knot the game with 2.1 seconds left on the clock.
The overtime period was again carried by Calgary, but Emery kept the puck out of his net. The Blackhawks killed another penalty in overtime, despite Calgary maintaining possession in the offensive zone for a majority of the kill.
The final minute of overtime was spent in the Blackhawks’ zone, even though both teams were back to even strength. Iginla had another opportunity from the right wing but Emery appeared to get just enough of it to deflect it off the post. Glencross was set up for a couple one-timers in the waning seconds but failed to hit the net.
The Blackhawks went to a shootout for the third consecutive game, but unlike their previous two efforts, the visitors emerged victorious. Kane tallied the only goal in the skills competition when he deked around a Kiprusoff poke check and tucked a backhander between the goalie’s legs.
Emery stopped all three shooters he saw. The first was a nice sprawling save as Tanguay got him moving side to side (but failed to elevate the puck). Hudler shot second for the Flames and although he got Emery to go down to the ice with his stickhandling, he shot the puck right into Emery’s mitt. The Hawks goalie didn’t have much of a problem with Roman Cervenka’s third opportunity to seal the win for the Blackhawks.
- Ray Emery played his best game as a Blackhawk, not only by the numbers but also with the eye test. Several stops were made while he was moving side-to-side and Emery played with a lot of confidence in cutting down shooting angles. He benefited from a few posts as well as the Flames’ inability to elevate any of their chances, but there is no question that Emery was the difference in the game for a Blackhawks team that brought another pedestrian effort at both ends of the ice.
- The Blackhawks’ penalty kill gave up their second goal of the season in the third period. That unit had gone five consecutive games without giving up a power play goal against. Calgary had a total of five power plays in the game, including two in the third period and one in overtime, compared to just one in the first period for Chicago.
- Brandon Bollig dropped the gloves for the third time this season in an early-first period bout against Tim Jackman. Most of the fight was spent with the two players jostling for position in the clench game, but each guy ate a couple good punches. Bollig seemed to take control towards the end with a couple uppercuts landing square, staggering Jackman on one occasion and bloodying his mouth by the end of the skirmish. The Flames’ winger went to the locker room immediately following the fight, while Bollig served his five minutes before heading to the Hawks locker room.
- Early news is optimistic in regards to Dave Bolland’s right leg injury – he will remain on the trip and accompany the team to San Jose.
- In Bolland’s absence, Jamal Mayers drew into the line-up as the fourth line center for his 900th career NHL game. Shaw moved up to center the second line and Kruger the third line.
- For what it’s worth, Pat Foley reported the sounds of jackhammers – a “multitude” of them – at a nearby construction site beginning at 7:30am, just a few hours after the team arrived at their hotel from Vancouver.
- Ray Emery won first star of the game, while Jay Bouwmeester and Dennis Wideman took the second and third stars, respectively.
- The Blackhawks will play on Tuesday night in San Jose, a 9:30pm central start time against the Sharks, who suffered their first loss of the season to Nashville via shootout on Saturday.