By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks shook off a sluggish opening two periods in Dallas Thursday night, riding goalie Corey Crawford to a 3-2 shootout victory at the American Airlines Center. Crawford kept Chicago in the game in the face of a speedy Stars attack until the Hawks were able to rally in the third period with a Patrick Sharp tally. Patrick Kane potted the lone goal in the skills competition to get the 2014-15 campaign off on the right foot.
First Period-Marcus Kruger was called for the hook on Vernon Fiddler less than two minutes into the contest and the Stars kept Crawford busy on the resulting power play. The Hawks withstood the pressure and kept Dallas out of the henhouse. Chicago killed a second penalty in the 15th minute when Jeremy Morin was caught cross-checking Ryan Garbutt.
The Stars kept Chicago on its heels for the bulk of the period, outshooting the Hawks 8-3 in the first 20 minutes. However, one of those shots managed to find its way past Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen.
It happened in the final minute of action and began with Sharp bringing the puck behind the net and back up the left side. Sharp passed to Brent Seabrook at the blue line. Seabrook’s touch pass was one-timed by Duncan Keith from near the top of the right circle. The shot had eyes and avoided Lehtonen’s pads with 43 seconds left. Having settled down a boisterous Dallas crowd, Chicago went to the locker room ahead 1-0.
Second Period-The Hawks were shorthanded early again when Keith’s stick caught Valeri Nichushkin. The Stars teed off on Crawford for the next two minutes but the Hawks goalie refused to yield. Crawford then turned away Garbutt on a breakaway attempt moments after the penalty expired.
Chicago wasn’t able to mount any offense until Jonathan Toews was hooked by Fiddler 5:43 into the middle stanza. Sharp sent a pair of pucks to the net but Lehtonen turned both away. Brandon Saad got open behind the defense but Antoine Roussel broke up the shot attempt. The first man advantage of the season saw the Hawks come up empty but not for lack of shooting.
The Blackhawks found themselves down a man at the 10:03 mark when Hjalmarsson caught Patrick Eaves with a high stick. With the Stars awarded a double-minor, Dallas finally made Chicago pay for a penalty. Just ten seconds into the power play, Trevor Daley got a blade on a bouncing puck and knocked it under the crossbar for the equalizer 10:13 into the second period.
Faced with two more minutes to kill, Crawford anchored the effort to negate the remaining time. The Stars caught Chicago napping on a shift change and Shawn Horcoff got behind the defense at the blue line. However, Crawford sent the attempt into the corner and the game remained tied.
The Chicago third line had a scoring opportunity in the 15th minute but Lehtonen knocked away Ben Smith’s attempt from the front of the net. Seconds later, Cody Eakin got space in the slot, took possession of a loose puck and zipped a shot past Crawford and off the far post. The puck settled into the net at 15:04 to put the Stars up 2-1.
With 2:34 to play in the second, Chicago got a gift of a power play when Brenden Dillon was called for interference on Smith. The Hawks failed to convert. Marian Hossa was called tripping Patrik Nemeth in front of the Dallas crease with 11 seconds remaining on the man advantage. Dallas ended the period on the power play and up a goal heading into the final frame.
Third Period-Kruger hit the post with an attempt in the second minute after the Hawks killed off the remaining penalty to start the period. Nemeth was called for interference 2:23 into the period. Chicago spent a lot of time in the Stars zone and got a lot of traffic in front of the net but couldn’t convert.
The teams went to 4-on-4 after Sharp and Dillon were called for matching roughing infractions. Johnny Oduya struck the far post with an attempt in the sixth minute. The puck ricocheted away, but the Hawks were showing signs awakening on the offensive end.
Crawford continued to be outstanding, keeping a puck that deflected off of Keith’s skate out of his net. Chicago continued to push the puck up the ice and earned another power play at 11:03 when Hossa’s stick was held by Jordie Benn.
Toews won the faceoff at the left dot. Patrick Kane sent the puck out to Keith at the point and Keith found Sharp at the top of the right circle. At the 11:10 mark, the Blackhawks had evened things up at two goals apiece when Sharp shot got under Lehtonen’s glove and into the promised land.
Hossa got the puck to the goal mouth in the 18th minute and Lehtonen had to make a nice play to keep Brad Richards from giving the Hawks the lead. Lindy Ruff took his timeout to settle his team, but Jordie Benn sent a puck over the glass with 1:55 left to open the door for Chicago.
Although shorthanded, the Stars got a 2-on-1 that Crawford shut down by stymying Fiddler as he skidded into the crease. Richards helped break up an attempt by Garbutt and the Stars held firm at the other end. On opening night, extra time would be required.
Overtime-The Hawks maintained possession through the first two minutes, though Daley got off a nice shot that Crawford stopped. Kane made a magical move to knock on the door but Chicago couldn’t finish the play. The Blackhawks controlled overtime but the teams would proceed directly to the shootout.
Shootout-Jason Spezza led off and was shut out at the five-hole by Crawford. Toews was stopped by Lehtonen. Tyler Seguin missed the net and Kane hoisted a backhander over the glove of Lehtonen. Ales Hemsky went wide, lost control of the puck and was stuffed by Crawford to give the Hawks the second point of the evening.
Three Stars-Eakin (third), Sharp (second), Crawford (first)
-Hjalmarsson and Oduya saw a lot of time together, particularly on defensive zone starts. The first shift of Trevor van Riemsdyk’s NHL career was all of five ticks of the clock. Coach Joel Quenneville really shortened his bench and got away with it thanks to his goalie.
-Roussel took Toews hard into the boards after the Fiddler hook in the second, though nothing came of it. Shaw landed hard on the back of his head on a third-period power play. Both players seemed none the worse for wear. I mention this only because we’re this close to Kyle Cumiskey skating at forward right now. Wait…forget I said anything.
-The Hawks offense was in preseason form Thursday night, at least for the first 40. Chicago took more shots in the third period (14) than they did in the first two (11).
-What catastrophic sight was Kevin Dineen gazing at before Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk interviewed him before the third period? For crying out loud, it’s the first game. Relax.
-Foley mentioned Jeremy Morin taking a rare late-game shift in the third period. What he didn’t mention is that I thought that Morin skated a hell of a shift. Of course, he had the energy since Joel Quenneville played him for just 5:32 on the night.
–Daniel Carcillo played even less, clocking in at 4:43 of ice time. I don’t remember seeing him or hearing his name called until the final period. David Rundblad sat out most of the final period but was suddenly out on the ice in over time.
-This was a goalie win tonight. Chicago could have dropped the game 4-1 and it wouldn’t have surprised me in the least. Tip of the cap to Crow, who stopped 32 of 34 shots and all three shootout attempts. Hell, tip your cap twice. Crawford was excellent Thursday.
-Chicago opens the home schedule on Saturday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.