By Jon Fromi
First Period-It was a wild opening twenty; Chicago was a bit out of sorts but managed to match the Avs goal output. The Hawks struggled to establish possession in the Colorado zone but looked to remedy that when Brandon Saad was tripped by Ryan O’Reilly at 3:14 of the first period.
Chicago failed to use its man advantage effectively and the Avalanche got a shorthanded breakaway attempt. Fortunately, Alex Tanguay struck the left post and the chance went by the wayside.
Colorado took a 1-0 advantage late in the seventh minute. Nathan McKinnon took a pass from Maxime Talbot, crossed his blue line and maneuvered past Johnny Oduya across the red line. Outracing the Hawks defense, McKinnon reached the top of the right circle before unleashing a wrist shot that beat Corey Crawford at the 6:56 mark.
The Hawks tied the score 31 seconds later after a Jonathan Toews faceoff win in the Colorado zone. Toews regained possession behind the Avs net, came around to the right post and fed Saad for the equalizer. Soon after, however, Colorado would retake the lead.
O’Reilly set up Erik Johnson at the top of the right circle and the defenseman sent a low shot on net. The puck struck the leg of David Rundblad on its way to Crawford and the trajectory change was more than enough to reach the cord over Crawford’s glove. With 8:53 gone in the period, the Avalanche held a 2-1 advantage.
After a couple of chances for Colorado to extend the lead were stopped by both Crawford and the goal post, Chicago got back to even ground in the 17th minute. Duncan Keith got the play going from his own zone. Marcus Kruger brought the puck across the blue line but was hit hard by Nate Guenin along the left half boards.
Kris Versteeg retrieved the puck and sent it across to Keith, who launched a shot on Avs goalie Calvin Pickard. Patrick Kane’s stick redirected the shot to the top of the net, making the score 2-2. That held up through the final minutes to the first intermission.
Second Period-Patrick Sharp tripped Talbot two minutes into the middle stanza but Chicago killed the penalty. The Hawks power play unit would finally create some offense after McKinnon sent a puck over the glass from his own zone in the 12th minute.
Saad won a draw at the left dot late in the man advantage. Marian Hossa and David Rundblad worked the puck over to the right circle to Brent Seabrook. The shot snuck into the left corner of the goal to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead at the 13:14 mark.
The Blackhawks put up 13 shots in the second period to just eight by Colorado as the visitors began to establish a bit more control of the contest. After two periods, Chicago maintained aone-goal lead.
Third Period-The Avs broke out on a 3-on-2 in the third minute of action. Oduya stopped Matt Duchene’s progress at the blue line to prevent the play from reaching critical mass. Later, in the eighth minute, Duchene interfered with Seabrook and Chicago had a shot at extending the lead.
Midway through the power play, Toews had a pass from the corner glance off of Johnson’s skate. Going to battle with Johnson Jan Hejda for possession, the captain got enough stick on the loose puck to send it to the right post, where Sharp came in and beat Pickard to give the Hawks a little breathing room at the 8:14 mark.
Penalties by Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson midway through the third gave the Avs 40 seconds of 5-on-3 time to get back into the contest. The Hawks PK withstood the push and Crawford kept all 11 Colorado attempts out of the net in the final 20 minutes.
The Avalanche pulled Pickard for the final minutes to no avail. Kane got an empty-netter via an assist by Ben Smith with six seconds remaining. Colorado took offense and order had to be restored before Chicago skated off with the win.
Three Stars-Toews (third), Kane (second), Seabrook (first).
-This was my Iowa recap, as I currently sit in a hotel room on my annual post-Christmas excursion out of state. The hotel’s wireless left much to be desired, let’s just say that. If I provided a blow-by-blow account of what I saw during the game, it would be a halting tale of a thousand starts and stops.
-Also interesting was the bile directed at Crawford by posters watching the same (though I assume less choppy) feed I was on this night. I don’t know what anyone expected him to do on the second Colorado goal and the D kind of left him out to dry on the first. However, like the rest of the team, Crawford picked it up in the final two frames.
-Four players (Bryan Bickell, Daniel Carcillo, Joakim Nordstrom and Tim Erixon) failed to hit ten minutes of ice time. Rundblad skated 10:27 thanks to 1:47 of power play action.
-Next up for the Hawks is another Central Division opponent. Chicago hosts Nashville Monday night. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.