By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks offered a national audience a dominating performance Saturday night. In a snowy Stadium Series contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Hawks used a big night from Jonathan Toews and a strong penalty kill to defeat the Penguins 5-1 at Soldier Field.
First Period-The teams labored in the snow for most of the first few minutes until Simon Despres was called for tripping Marcus Kruger in the fifth minute. Kris Versteeg got the only shot on goal as the Penguins negated the man advantage.
Pittsburgh got a loose puck in front of Corey Crawford in the seventh minute but the Hawks goalie covered it up. Forty seconds later, Ben Smith made a nice pass to Kruger only to have Marc-Andre Fleury made a nice save on Kruger’s shot attempt.
Starting at the midway point of the period, the Penguins began to spend a little more time in the Chicago zone. That momentum was stalled when Tanner Glass boarded Brandon Bollig at the 11:48 mark.
The Hawks power play was more effective, with Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane getting in front of the net for shots. In all Chicago managed four shots on their second shot at 5-on-4 but the result was still a successful kill by the Penguins.
Patrick Sharp got the Hawks on the board after Jonathan Toews fed him the puck from behind the net. Sharp let fly with a one-timer from the right circle that got past Fleury, struck the left post past Fleury and ricocheted into the net. Chicago led 1-0 15:35 into the period.
Pittsburgh gained a late power play when Johnny Oduya was called for holding James Neal with 2:14 left in the first period. Led by some nice forechecking by Kruger, the Hawks killed the penalty and went to the locker room up a goal after the opening 20 minutes.
Second Period-The snow let up as the teams came out for action. Saad was open for a pass from Sharp in the opening minute but a Rob Scuderi backcheck prevented a scoring chance.
Despres high-sticked Saad two minutes in to give the Hawks another power play. Shaw set up Toews with a backhanded centering pass and the captain had a wide open net. His attempt was wide, glancing off of the left pad of Fleury and was stopped by the right post.
Kane got clear up the left side but his attempt hit the right post. Seconds later, Kane hit the other post from the right circle and Chicago came up empty once again. The snow resumed soon after and was again a factor for both teams.
Duncan Keith sent a clearing attempt over the glass and was sent to the box for delay of game 5:56 into the middle frame. Chris Kunitz was stopped by Crawford early in the power play, deflecting an attempt from the right circle.
Kunitz negated the man advantage when he took a shot at Michal Rozsival after the whistle after 55 seconds of the power play. A few seconds later, Sidney Crosby was interfered with by Oduya and the Penguins now had a 4-on-3 advantage.
Chicago got Keith back on the ice and soon after he led a 2-on-1 up the right side. Fleury made the stop on Keith’s shot attempt and a few seconds later gloved a shot by Toews.
The captain completed an outstanding individual play midway through the period, weaving up the middle of the ice. Maneuvering around Brooks Orpik, Toews sent a backhand to the five-hole of Fleury. The puck eventually slipped across the goal line. The officials huddled together before announcing a good goal and a 2-0 Hawks advantage 10:48 into the second period.
Keith was back in the penalty box after his stick caught the face of Brian Gibbons at the 11:38 mark. Crawford absorbed a Brandon Sutter shot late in the power play and Pittsburgh was denied for the fourth time.
Chicago withstood some pressure in the 16th minute even after Oduya’s stick came apart. On the next shift, Kane came up with the puck on a 3-on-1. After some deft stickhandling on the left side, Kane slid the puck to a wide open Versteeg at the right post. The tap in made it 3-0 Hawks with 3:17 to play in the period.
The Penguins gained a fifth man advantage when Rozsival tripped Neal with 1:18 left. Pittsburgh peppered the Hawks goal with rubber but Crawford and the PK unit was up to the challenge. A pair of saves by Crawford and blocks by Kruger and Handzus sent the teams into the second intermission with a 3-0 lead.
Third Period-Chicago finished off the remaining 42 seconds of Rozsival’s penalty to open the final 20 minutes. The Hawks continued to control the action, spending a lot of time in the Penguins zone. Fleury denied some good scoring chances by Versteeg and Smith in the first five minutes of the third period.
The shutout bid was broken up when Brent Seabrook knocked Neal’s centering attempt into the Chicago goal 6:21 into the period. The unfortunate play followed a giveaway by Keith and Crawford knocking away an attempt by Evgeni Malkin. Despite being held in check for most of the game, Pittsburgh trailed 3-1 but had a sliver of hope.
Kane took a feed from Sharp near the midway point but Fleury got a pad on the shot. Shortly thereafter the teams switched ends for the final ten minutes.
Crawford played a puck just inside the illegal zone, though Kruger was called for delay of game to give the Penguins another power play at the 10:29 mark. Pittsburgh went hard at Crawford but the penalty kill delivered again.
Rozsival got a scoring play started with a pass from behind his own net to Saad. Saad entered the offensive zone along the right boards and found Bryan Bickell streaking toward the mouth of the goal. Bickell needed a second effort but got the puck past Fleury for a 4-1 Blackhawks lead with 6:03 to play.
Chicago scored a late goal that was credited to Toews after he took a pass from Sharp and bore down on Fleury. The shot was stopped but the rebound struck Despres and found the net to make it 5-1 with 2:08 remaining.
Three Stars-Kane (third), Sharp (second), Toews (first)
-I don’t suppose the ice crew wants to drop by my house and shovel my driveway. Come on, guys. It would probably take you all of 20 seconds.
-For the first few minutes, the NBC broadcast was sans a clock or scoreboard. Or maybe it was there and I couldn’t see it for the snow. Passing and puck handling suffered greatly as the snow came down at a substantial rate.
-Doc Emerick made a point to note Crawford’s “special helmet” in the third period. The note that he should have received explaining that Crow was wearing his regular game mask must have been lost by whatever entity misplaced Crawford’s Stadium Series mask.
-Crawford stopped 31 of 31 Penguins shots. Only Seabrook’s attempt, credited to Neal as the 32nd shot, found its way past the Hawks goalie. As anchor of the penalty kill, Crawford stopped all six Pittsburgh power plays. Would he have been one of the stars of the game had he posted the shutout?
– Marian Hossa left the game in the first period and did not return. Saad was moved up to the top line in time to get an assist on the Sharp goal. After the game, Joel Quenneville told the media that it looks like Hossa will “miss some time,” though he didn’t expect Hossa to be out long. At the same time, Quenneville admitted he wouldn’t know more until Monday.
-Bollig and Robert Bortuzzo slammed into the boards behind the Pittsburgh net early in the second period with enough force to knock loose the goal light. The two players each had six hits to lead their respective teams.
-Crosby was a minus-two on the night and was limited to three shots on goal. Toews definitely came out on top of this matchup.
-Even with Hossa out and coach Joel Quenneville short on forwards, Bickell played just 9:06.
-The Hawks outshot Pittsburgh 14-5 in the first period and won 15 of 19 faceoffs. On a normal night, you would expect more than a one goal advantage after that kind of dominance. On the other hand, Chicago took control of the game by outshooting the Penguins 17-13 in the second period.
-Stopping action at the ten-minute mark for the goalies to switch ends is silly. I think playing to the next whistle makes more sense.
-Having broken a two-game skid, Chicago next hosts the Avalanche Tuesday night.