By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks held a two-goal lead midway through Friday’s game with Vancouver and were up a goal entering the last 20 minutes. The Canucks chipped back, tied the game in regulation and won an eight-round shootout session on a successful attempt by Ryan Kesler. Chicago picked up a point but dropped a 3-2 decision to Vancouver at the United Center.
First Period-The Hawks tested Eddie Lack a couple of times early, controlling play and putting up the game’s first five shots. Vancouver’s Chris Higgins found himself with a potential scoring chance when he took a pass from Kesler to the Chicago net. Fortunately, Antti Raanta turned away the attempt early in the seventh minute.
The Hawks fourth line responded with a strong shift to pin back the Canucks in their own zone in the eighth minute. After a line change, Patrick Kane took a pass from Michal Handzus and sent a puck to the net from the point. The shot was tipped by Kris Versteeg and the puck trickled past Lack and across the goal line. At the 7:49 mark, Chicago owned a 1-0 advantage.
The Blackhawks continued to keep Vancouver on its heels as the period wore on. Brandon Bollig got possession of a Canucks miscue along the boards in the 14th minute and set up Ben Smith for a nice one-timer from the slot. Lack prevented the fourth line from doubling the lead, however.
Nick Leddy entered the Canucks zone with the puck and went hard to the net, drawing a holding penalty from Yannick Weber with 15:55 gone in the opening period. What could have been a great feed from Patrick Sharp to Kane fizzled thanks to a poke check by Christopher Tanev. The top-rated Vancouver penalty kill kept the deficit at a single goal without allowing a shot on Lack.
Bollig interfered with Kesler with 1:21 to play in the period to provide the Canucks with a man advantage. The Blackhawks held Vancouver in check until the buzzer sounded and skated into the locker room up 1-0.
Second Period-The Canucks peppered Raanta with three shots in the remaining 39 seconds of power play time to kick off the middle frame. The rookie goalie left several dangerous rebounds in front of the crease but kept the puck out of the net. Chicago killed the rest of the penalty but wound up down a man in the third minute when Rozsival cross-checked Higgins.
The Hawks handled Vancouver’s second power play, with Rozsival getting to a clearing attempt as he came out of the box. Thirty seconds later, Kane found Rozsival for a shot the Lack knocked back out to the right circle. Kane was there to slide the puck off Brad Richardson’s skate and past Kevin Bieska into the Canucks net at the 4:57 mark.
The 2-0 Hawks lead was short-lived as Zack Kassian came up the left side and zipped home a shot off the leg of Brent Seabrook and past Raanta’s blocker. The shot glanced off the left post and found twine to 8:19 into the period to cut the Chicago lead in half.
The fourth line generated a great scoring chance in the 13th minute when Bollig handled a bouncing pass from Kruger and found himself on the doorstep. Bollig got the puck to his backhand but Lack stopped the attempt with a pad save.
Shortly after, Versteeg was tripped by Jason Garrison. Not only couldn’t the Hawks capitalize, but they handed Vancouver its own power play when Chicago had too many men on the ice with 3:54 left in the period.
The man advantage came to an end when Smith took a pass from Brandon Saad, made an incredible move into the zone and across the crease. The shot attempt met Lack’s left pad, but Kesler was called for tripping to leave the Canucks a man down for the last 1:46 of action. Chicago could not score but entered the second intermission still up 2-1.
Third Period-The action was back and forth until Niklas Hjalmarsson flipped the puck out of play from the defensive zone, resulting in a delay of game infraction in the fifth minute. The Hawks killed the penalty then survived as the Canucks kept the puck in the Chicago zone for an additional minute.
Daniel Sedin tied the score for Vancouver midway through the final period. Brother Henrik started the scoring play from behind the Hawks net, dishing to Bieksa at the top of the left circle. Bieksa’s shot was blocked, but the puck found its way to Daniel at the right post. Sedin flipped the shot just over Raanta’s glove and it was all even at two 10:48 into the third.
The Hawks got another power play when Kesler tripped Johnny Oduya at the 12:08 mark, but Chicago came up empty for the fourth time on the night.
Shaw had a point blank chance denied by Lack with 3:35 to go. A Chicago push in the last minute turned into a 3-on-1 rush by the Canucks. Henrik Sedin’s attempt was wide with 12 seconds left and the game went into extra time.
Overtime-Raanta denied Higgins as overtime began. Hossa got the puck to Kane in the second minute, but his stick was tied up. Hossa led Kane on another rush but Webber caught him from behind before he could make a move.
Mike Santorelli came down the right side and beat Raanta in the fourth minute but couldn’t guide the puck into the net. The puck glanced off the right post and was covered by Raanta. A late Hawks rush was broken up in the waning seconds and it was off to the shootout.
Shootout-Kane led off and went backhand on Lack only to watch Lack make the save. Santorelli five-holed Raanta. Lack slammed the door on Jonathan Toews in round two, but Raanta kept hope alive by stopping Daniel Sedin. Sharp got the puck by Lack and Raanta stopped Daniel Sedin.
Hossa went short side but could only find the post. Kassian was stuffed on his attempt. Saad was victimized by a Lack poke check. Weber’s wrister was knocked away by Raanta. Smith’s shot found Lack’s pads before David Booth was denied.
Versteeg’s shot was off the mark but Raanta gloved Zac Dalpe’s shot. Handzus went for the far side but Lack made the save, setting up Kesler’s winning shot past Raanta’s glove side.
Three Stars-Dan Hamhuis (third), Daniel Sedin (second), Kane (first).
-Both Raanta and Lack were impressive in keeping the scoring down in this one. Lack finished with 24 stops on 26 Blackhawks shots on goal. Raanta saved 22 Vancouver shots and was nearly Lack’s equal. Both goalies were victimized by some fortunate bounces so things were pretty even in the luck department.
-Kane did extend his point streak to 11 games with a goal and an assist. He can equal his season-high streak with a point Monday night against visiting New Jersey.
-On a night where the Canucks were coming off a game Thursday, Vancouver won despite being essentially a three-line club. Kesler played over 25 minutes while Santorelli and the Sedins all logged over 24 minutes.
-The power play was stopped after scoring a goal in each of its last ten contests. On the other hand, Vancouver was kept out of the net four times with the man advantage.
-The team unveiled the sweater to be worn March 1 in Chicago’s Soldier Field contest with Pittsburgh. It looks like we’re right back to the black alternate, “chrome finish” notwithstanding. Too bad the Hawks couldn’t have gone with a white throwback like, say, the circle crest logo of the 1948-55 sweaters.
-There was a physical element to the game, but things were pretty civil all things considered. With Alexander Edler and Alexandre Burrows out of the lineup with injuries, Friday’s tilt definitely lacked the snarl of past clashes.