By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks found themselves down a pair of goals in Vancouver Wednesday night minutes into the second period. Chicago responded with five unanswered goals to snap a four-game skid, rallying to defeat the Canucks 5-2.
First Period-The Canucks got on the board 16 seconds into the game. Ryan Kesler put a backhand attempt on the Hawks net. Chris Higgins gathered in the puck and beat Corey Crawford via the five-hole to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead on the game’s first shift.
A minute later, Niklas Hjalmarsson threw a shot toward the net that floated past Roberto Luongo. The puck struck the crossbar and glanced off of Luongo’s leg. However, Luongo was able to keep the puck from sliding into his net.
Luongo was struck near the shoulder by a Duncan Keith shot five minutes in but he remained in the contest. Marian Hossa took a pass off the boards from Jonathan Toews in the seventh minute and streaked to the crease but the shot attempt was wide.
Johnny Oduya was sent to the penalty box at the 13:25 mark after Luongo knocked away a Chicago scoring attempt. The Canucks gave the power play up when Alexandre Burrows tripped Brent Seabrook with 5:25 left in the first period.
Crawford made a nice stop in the 4-on-4 time on a Higgins wrist shot. The Hawks had 51 second of power play time that they could not convert into the tying goal.
The Hawks did well to turn away some intense pressure in the last two minutes of the period. Crawford made a tremendous pad save on Brad Richardson at the close of a five-shot Vancouver flurry with 42 seconds left. Hjalmarsson and Hossa blocked Canucks attempts, allowing Chicago to make it to the locker room facing just a one-goal deficit.
Second Period-Vancouver doubled its advantage in the third minute when Zack Kassian stripped Kris Versteeg of the puck to start the scoring play. The puck went from Kassian to Ryan Stanton to Tom Sestito, who scored from the slot to make it 2-0 Vancouver 2:44 into the period.
At the 6:30 mark, Chicago would get on the scoreboard. The first Hawks goal came off of the power play after Booth interfered with Crawford 5:01 into the period. Versteeg took a pass from Brandon Saad and quickly found Hossa at the right circle. Hossa found the opening on Luongo’s glove side to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Blackhawks would even the contest midway through the period. Sheldon Brookbank took the puck from Michal Handzus and let fly from the blue line. Saad redirected the puck past Luongo to make it 2-2 at the 9:39 mark.
Just 1:08 later, the Hawks took the lead with a goal by Jonathan Toews, who took a pass from Seabrook from the corner. The puck hopped over Luongo’s stick and the captain deposited the puck past Luongo’s stick side and into the goal.
Hjalmarsson slashed the stick of David Booth with 8:23 left in the middle frame to send Vancouver to the power play. Chicago came up with another nice penalty kill.
In the fifteenth minute, Toews brought the puck into the Canucks zone and dropped the puck back to Patrick Sharp. A 30-footer off of Sharp’s stick beat Luongo to make it 4-2 Chicago with 5:49 remaining in the second period.
Kris Versteeg turned the puck over just outside the Chicago zone, but Crawford absorbed a shot attempt by Richardson to put an end to the threat. Both teams had chances in the final minutes but the clock ran out with Chicago still up by a score of 4-2.
Third Period-Crawford made a nice glove save on Jannick Hansen in the fifth minute after Ben Smith and Hossa put pucks on the Canucks net in the first few minutes of the final period.
Richardson was taken down by Nick Leddy in the Chicago crease to put the Canucks back on the power play at the 8:33 mark. Crawford made a big save on a Kessler move to the net and Toews got in the way of a follow up by Alexander Edler. Vancouver was turned away for the third time of the game.
Chicago was unable to add to the lead but kept enough pressure on the Canucks defense to maintain its advantage.
Luongo went to the bench with two minutes to play. Chicago withstood the extra Vancouver skater and drew a penalty when Handzus was slashed by Richardson while bringing the puck into the neutral zone. The Canucks pulled Luongo in the final minute, leading to an empty-netter by Saad with 38 ticks left.
Three Stars-Seabrook (third), Kesler (second), Saad (first)
-Dang. I’m tired. I hate these 9:30 p.m. starts. I don’t think the game even started until nearly 9:45. Hopefully a come-from-behind road win can keep me up at work tomorrow.
-Bryan Bickell was a scratch for the second time in three games. This may suggest that he may want to get used to the view from the press box for a while. At the same time, Bickell could probably benefit from some down time to let his knees get closer to 100 percent.
-I really like the way Ben Smith is playing right now. He absorbed quite a bit of physical Vancouver play and still put in a solid 14:49 Wednesday.
-Another guy who took a pounding was Luongo, who gave up four goals on 39 Hawks shots and at least one Brandon Pirri shot off his noggin.
-Crawford stopped 29 of the 31 shots Vancouver threw his way. Having Antti Raanta on the roster doesn’t seem to have made a dent in his workload as he has played in 10 of the last 12 games.
-Chicago stayed focused and prevailed in the face of a highly physical effort on the part of the Canucks. The end result is a much-needed road victory and a few days off before a tough Saturday night date in San Jose.