By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks spotted their opponents from Edmonton a four-goal lead in the first period before coming out to make a game of it. Unfortunately, the ‘Hawks could not overcome a pathetic start and lost their second game in a row 6-5 to the Oilers.
The game was dominated by Edmonton throughout the opening period. Niklas Hjalmarsson committed an early turnover in his zone that was gathered in by Ales Hemsky, but Hjalmarsson recovered nicely to prevent any damage. Damage was coming, however, as the Oilers scored twice in the third minute.
The first goal came when Mike Brown received a puck that was held in the Chicago zone and flung it from a few feet inside the blue line. The shot snaked past Ray Emery’s left pad and in at the 2:24 mark. A few seconds later, Sam Gagner completed a play that saw Nail Yakupov thread a pass to Magnus Paajarvi, who directed the puck to the doorstep. Gagner knocked in the pass to give his team a two-goal advantage.
Midway through the period, Edmonton won a faceoff in the ‘Hawks zone. Taylor Hall got control, looped around the right circle and hit a pinching Ryan Whitney for a backdoor goal. Just 9:19 in, the Oilers were up 3-0.
Coach Joel Quenneville pulled Emery following Gagner’s goal, opting to send in Corey Crawford. Deep in the hole, Jamal Mayers tried to start a little something with Brown in an attempt to change momentum. Brown just said no after Mayers dropped the gloves at the 12:02 mark and the Oilers had the first power play of the contest.
It took mere seconds for Whitney to hit Gagner crossing the blueline. Gagner flew down the middle and promptly beat Crawford to the stick side with a backhanded shot. 12:22 into the first period, the Blackhawks found themselves down 4-0.
Chicago managed to keep Edmonton out of the scoring column for the remainder of the period, though at no point did they assemble anything resembling an offensive threat. The passing was lacking, the Oilers outshot the ‘Hawks 12-5 and the home team went into the locker room looking bewildered and behind four goals.
Chicago responded in what was a wild second period, starting with a nice individual effort by Patrick Kane. Chasing down a clearing attempt, Kane won a race with Devin Dubnyk, who had made the ill-fated decision to leave the crease. Kane tapped the puck around the Oilers goalie, waited out Whitney and Jordan Eberle’s attempts to protect the empty net and deposited the puck over the goal line to cut the lead to 4-1 at the 5:36 mark.
Just over two minutes later, Jonathan Toews brought the puck into the Edmonton zone and swooped behind the net. Marian Hossa found a seam in the defense, took the puck from Toews in front of the net and five-holed Dubnyk to make it 4-2.
Nick Leddy was called for holding at 8:31 of the second period. The ensuing power play was quite eventful. Toews and Hossa worked a shorthanded give and go that resulted in a stop by Dubnyk. However, Hossa and Teemu Hartikainen went crashing into the crease.
Hossa dislodged the net, while Hartickainen barreled into Dubnyk, compressing the neck of his goaltender. After Dubnyk was attended to for several minutes, the Oilers sent in Yann Danis and play resumed. With three seconds remaining on the power play, Hemsky’s shot was redirected by Shawn Horcuff over Crawford’s right pad to making the score 5-2.
Danis made a nice glove side to stop a point-blank attempt by Andrew Shaw late in the 14th minute. Hemsky was sprung for a breakaway attempt a moment later that was denied by Crawford. Duncan Keith slashed Hemsky to set up another power play for Edmonton.
Hossa swiped a pass meant for Ganger and streaked to the net. A rebound was fired back by Sheldon Brookbank, who followed his shot and got the puck over the line. After review, it was ruled that the puck glanced off of Brookbank’s chest and the goal stood. Chicago trailed 5-3 at the 15:05 mark.
The Oliers returned fire at the end of Keith’s penalty, with Hall redirecting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to put Edmonton up 6-3. A minute and 16 seconds later, the ‘Hawks struck again when Viktor Stalberg got control of a loose puck in the Oilers zone. Kane held the puck in the zone and scooted it to Brent Seabrook. Seabrook’s slap shot found the net to close the gap to 6-4 in the 18th minute.
The teams traded chances in the first five minutes of the final period before Shaw was hit in the back along the boards by Ladislav Smid, giving Chicago its first man advantage. 80 seconds later, Dave Bolland brought the puck in along the left side and found Kane with a nifty pass to the right dot. A laser over Danis’ glove side met twine, and 7:06 in, the ‘Hawks trailed 6-5.
Several Blackhawks had prime scoring chances on Danis in the ninth minute that were narrowly turned away. The momentum was now squarely for the home team.
Hossa connected with Brookbank, who fired on net. The shot was stopped but Nick Schultz was called for playing with a broken stick. Chicago would have another power play in an attempt to tie the game.
Toews centered to Shaw but Danis snuffed the attempt. Shaw tried to redirect a Duncan Keith blast but Danis gloved it. The ‘Hawks couldn’t convert.
Chicago kept the pressure on in the final minutes. After another assault on Danis, Hossa was called for goaltender interference with 4:03 left. Following a big penalty kill, the ‘Hawks pulled Crawford for an extra skater. Horcuff looked to be on his was to a potential empty netter, but Hossa made a nice pick and Chicago forced an icing call with 1:04 remaining.
The Blackhawks called timeout before the draw in the Oilers zone but despite some loose pucks in front of the net, Chicago could not manage the equalizer.
-Those who speculate that the Blackhawks have lost that aura of invincibility Friday night in Colorado needn’t worry. They took care of that in a miserable opening 20 minutes Sunday night.
-Why wasn’t Crawford starting this game? I’m not blaming anything but the first goal on Emery, but if Crawford is the starter doesn’t he get a chance to start Sunday and re-establish his groove? At least there is no goalie controversy-both guys were less than stellar Sunday.
-Before the game, the Comcast put up a graphic lamenting Edmonton’s recent offensive struggles, with all the players who have posting goose eggs in the last few games. It should come as no surprise that the guy at the top of that list (Gagner) would light up the United Center.
-Tip of the cap to Danis, who stopped 21 of 24 shots but stood tall against the barrage of shots in the final minutes.
-Edmonton’s 3-4 night on the power play was the difference. One goal came on poor coverage and the other two were on basically the same play.
-The hold on Leddy was a pretty nitpicky call.
– Quenneville played Mayers for a Bolligesque 3:14 and Daniel Carcillo for 4:01. Essentially this was a three-line effort tonight.
-Johnny Oduya logged a season-low 15:35 Sunday. Brookbank played 16:40, including over two minutes of power play time, and had his first goal of the season.
-Pat Foley was without regular partner Eddie Olcyk, but managed to overcome adversity. It seems that Foley usually receives cupcakes from linesman Andy McElman and poor Pat went the whole first period without his yummy treats. Fortunately, a box of McElman’s cupcakes arrived in the second period and Foley was able to complete the broadcast.
-Chicago now has a three-day break to get their bearings before starting a four-game road jaunt in Columbus.