By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks were looking at the daunting task of breaking a three-game skid without the services of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Hosting Minnesota Thursday night, Chicago survived a late goal by the Wild and posted a 3-2 shootout win.
With the lineup lacking its usual star power, Ben Smith and a returning Bryan Bickell provided the offense for the Blackhawks. The result was a key victory as the regular season winds down.
First Period-Kris Versteeg got off a shot in the first minute after Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov misplayed the puck in front of the crease. However, Chicago found the going tough in terms of getting the puck to the net. Minnesota outshot the Hawks 9-5 in the opening period and scoring chances were few for the home team.
The Wild scored at the 14:19 mark on a rather opportunistic goal by Charlie Coyle. Jared Spurgeon sent a shot toward the Chicago net. Niklas Hjalmarsson got his stick on the attempt but the puck continued toward Corey Crawford. Coyle redirected the puck a second time, sending it tumbling over Crawford’s glove and into the net.
Hossa swiped a pass in the final minute and led an odd-man rush into the Minnesota zone but Bryzgalov knocked the shot away. Heading into the first intermission, the Hawks trailed 1-0.
Second Period-Late in the second minute, a nice outlet pass from Brent Seabrook led to Versteeg leading a 2-on-1 with Hossa on is wing. Versteeg snapped off a shot but Bryzgalov caught the puck against his body and ended the threat.
Thirty seconds later, Versteed got to a loose puck along the boards and sent a slick backhanded pass out to Nick Leddy at the point. Leddy’s shot bounced off of the Wild net-minder and landed in front of the crease. Ben Smith failed on the put back, as did Brandon Saad, but Smith’s second effort had the required elevation to find the back of the net. Less than three minutes into the middle frame, Chicago had evened the score 1-1.
In the sixth minute, Patrick Sharp got loose in the Wild zone and took a shot from the right circle. Bryzgalov sent the puck into the netting to thwart the attempt. In the ninth minute, Brandon Bollig came into the Minnesota zone and laid a hit on Zach Parise, sending the Wild captain to the dressing room. Parise returned to action shortly thereafter.
Versteeg was called for slashing when he retaliated after a hit by Stephane Veilleux, giving Minnesota the game’s first power play near the midpoint of the contest. Crawford made a couple of saves early in the two minutes and the Hawks killed the penalty.
The Wild was called for too many men on the ice at 13:15. Matt Cooke, who was the extra man on, hit Andrew Shaw after the whistle and a discussion group formed at the Wild blue line. Jeremy Morin and Dany Heatly were sent to the box for coincidental minors along with Cooke. The Hawks could not take advantage as Minnesota denied the Chicago power play.
There was some excitement in the 19th minute when Saad turned the puck over in the Hawks zone. Cooke took possession and found Kyle Brodziak coming to the front of the net. Brodziak had Crawford down and nothing but twine between him and a goal. However, Duncan Keith swooped in to lift Brodziak’s stick and the threat was over. After 40 minutes, the score was knotted at a goal apiece.
Third Period-Chicago continued to turn up the pressure on the Wild and took its first lead of the game in the third minute. Morin looped back into the corner to swipe a pass after the Hawks lost a faceoff in the Minnesota zone. Bickell got to the front of the net and took the feed from Morin. It took two attempts, but Bickell got the puck over the sprawling leg of Bryzgalov and put Chicago up 2-1 2:45 into the third period.
From that point, it was Crawford making several key stops throughout the final 17 minutes. He turned away a point-blank attempt by Cooke in the sixth minute and a shot from Parise about a minute later. Erik Haula was denied midway through the period.
Crawford made a pair of saves in traffic in the 17th minute to preserve the Chicago advantage. Keith hit Saad with a pass for a scoring chance but Bryzgalov kept the puck out of his net.
With less than two minutes to play, Haula came into the Hawks zone, threw the puck between Hjalmarsson’s wickets and past Crawford’s glove to time the game. Saad fought into the Wild zone with 50 seconds left but couldn‘t get close enough to break the tie. Regulation came to a close and the teams prepared for a little 4-on-4 action.
Overtime-Sharp got off a shot that was deflected high in the second minute. A bouncing puck in front of Crawford kept Ryan Suter from getting a shot on goal in the fourth minute. Marcus Kruger tried to center Shaw but couldn’t get the pass through the Wild defense. Smith had a good look with 51 seconds to go but the shot was blocked by Suter. The Hawks got some pressure on net in the closing seconds but overtime ended with the score still tied.
Shootout-Sharp was stopped on his forehand attempt. Parise was denied by Crawford. Hossa slapped one off Bryzgalov’s glove and in. Saku Koivu’s backhand was knocked away. Smith missed with the forehand, but Crawford closed up the five-hole on Jason Pominville and the Hawks had a precious second point.
Three Stars-Suter (third), Smith (second), Bickell (first).
-Bollig’s hit on Parise may get some scrutiny, but no call was made on the ice and I thought the officials got a pretty good look at the play. The fact that Parise came back to the game after a brief visit to the locker room suggests little will come of this.
-Did Cooke get a piece of that late Wild goal? Beats me…until the league says different I’m going with Haula.
-Bickell marked his return with his eleventh goal of the season along with four shots on goal in 9:56 of ice time.
-Morin was physical, wasn’t afraid to mix it up when Shaw was knocked down and set up Bickell’s goal with a nice hustling play. Will he get more than the 8:56 he skated Thursday or will Quenneville choose to sit him against the Blue Jackets?
-Versteeg committed a dumb penalty but had himself a solid game. He was more apt to shoot Thursday and also was the catalyst of the first Hawks goal despite not getting an assist.
-Down two key starters, Chicago bounced back from a pretty lethargic opening 20 minutes to work its way to a big home win.
-Shaw led the forwards in ice time, skating 22:05 Thursday in the middle of the top line.
-Without Toews prowess at the dot, Chicago still won the faceoff battle 28-25.
-Johnny Oduya was a late scratch with a lower body injury. Hjalmarsson led the Hawks in TOI with 27:35. Joel Quenneville revealed at the post-game presser that he didn’t think Oduya would be playing Friday in Columbus.
Smith started on the fourth line but was switched with Nordstrom after the first TV timeout.