By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks found themselves down a goal to the Montreal Canadiens after 40 minutes of action Friday night. However, a pair of third period scores brought the Hawks back. Brandon Saad potted the game-winner in the final minute to give Chicago a 4-3 win.
First Period-Chicago got on the board in the third minute following Daniel Carcillo blocking a Tom Gilbert shot. Andrew Shaw collected the loose puck and brought it out of the Hawks zone. Bryan Bickell came up the left side and made a nice pass to Michael Rozsival, who had joined the odd-man rush. Roszival let fly from the right dot and beat Carey Price for a 1-0 Chicago lead at the 2:13 mark.
The scoring play seemed to tilt the rink toward the Montreal zone for the next few minutes, though real quality chances were hard to come by. Marian Hossa took a feed from Jonathan Toews but it was knocked away by Price.
Montreal’s first real big chance came in the 11th minute when Brandon Prust broke away and bore down on the Chicago net. Antti Raanta stoned Prust to end the threat, however. Joakim Nordstrom beat Price moments later but struck the post.
The Hawks went on the penalty kill after Shaw cross-checked Andrei Markov 14:50 into the period. A P.K. Subban shot from the point hit the post but Chicago snuffed out the Shaw penalty.
Prust had an open net and a rebound to knock in but whiffed on a bouncing puck. Patrick Kane set up Kris Versteeg with a similarly open net but all Versteeg got was the post. Chicago did meld rubber and twine when Ben Smith knocked in a loose puck near the right post at the 18:16 mark. The two-goal advantage lasted nearly 30 seconds.
With 1:18 to play in the first, the Canadiens got a goal back when Brendan Gallagher beat Raanta from the slot. Alex Galchenyuk provided the primary assist from behind the Hawks goal. Sergei Gonchar interfered with Hossa in the Montreal zone with 49 seconds left. Chicago ended the first period on the man advantage and with a 2-1 lead.
Second Period-The Hawks quickly got a two-man advantage when Subban caught Kane with his stick, earning a double minor. Versteeg had a couple of looks but couldn’t quite connect. A minute later, Richards was called for interference and the teams went to 4-on-4.
Price made an impressive pad save on Marcus Kruger to prevent a goal in the third minute. Jiri Sekec came back the other way a moment later with no one but Raanta in front of him but the backhand attempt was stopped.
With 7:58 gone in the middle frame, Gonchar took a pass from Gallagher at the top of the right circle and beat Raanta to the glove side to even the score at two goals apiece. The action was back and forth throughout the middle of the contest. The Habs got a power play in the 14th minute when Hossa tripped Dale Weise but could not get the best of the Hawks PK units.
Chicago had a nice shift going in the Canadiens zone until Kane was called for tripping Prust with 2:51 to go in the second. Seconds after what looked to be a questionable penalty, Subban sent a shot over Raanta’s shoulder to put Montreal up 3-2. The time of the goal came at the 17:22 mark.
Hossa was taken down by Alexei Emilin as the clock expired and the Hawks went into the second intermission down one but with two-minutes of power play time to tie it up to start the final 20.
Third Period-The Blackhawks failed to convert while being a man up for the opening two minutes. A couple of minutes later, Subban hooked Shaw to give Chicago another power play. This time, the Hawks would draw even.
Brad Richards slid a puck through the legs of Price and toward the goal line. Jonathan Toews got a stick on it as it was traveling to the promised land to get credit for the tally and things were knotted at three 4:28 into the final period.
In the eighth minute, Max Pacioretty led Weise on an odd man rush that was ended by Raanta. The two goalies kept the game tied as the minutes ticked away. It appeared as if it would take overtime to decide the winner of this one. However, things sorted themselves out in a wild final minute.
Weise got off a shot between the circles that got by Raanta but was off the mark. Brent Seabrook got to the puck and passed to Kane, who hit Toews coming out of the defensive zone. Toews streaked across neutral ice and dished to Saad on his left. Saad centered to Kane coming up the middle and headed to the net.
Kane’s attempt was blocked by Pacioretty but Markov’s clearing attempt came right to the stick of Saad, who had made his way to the right post. Saad swept the puck past Price’s glove for the game-winner with 27 seconds to go. Saad’s heroics stood up on the scoreboard as the Hawks claimed two more points.
Three Stars-Gonchar (third), Toews (second), Saad (first).
-The penalty that resulted in the go-ahead goal for the Canadiens may have come on a phantom trip on the part of Kane. Fortunately we don’t have to dwell on a call altering the result of the contest.
-Smith broke a 19-game scoreless drought with his goal in the first period.
-The Hawks were out shot in the game 41-36. Pacioretty and Subban each had six for Montreal, while Chicago was led by Kruger, who also had six shots.
-Wasting an extended period of 5-on-3 time and giving up two goals isn’t the way anyone drew up the second period. However, the Blackhawks showed some trademark resiliency in the third period.
-With their fifth straight victory, the Hawks trail Nashville by a single point in the Central Division standings. Chicago can take over leadership of the division as they are in Music City Saturday night.