By Brad Vandenberk
The 2015 Winter Classic was decided with just 13 seconds remaining in the third period. Ex-Hawk Troy Brouwer found the puck on his stick at the top of the circle and beat Corey Crawford igniting the home fans taking the game 3-2. The outdoor elements were noticeable with the puck bouncing around all over the ice making it difficult to execute the stretch pass that the Hawks love to do, as well as enabling defensemen to keep pucks from jumping over the blue line.
Crawford kept the Hawks alive in the final period of the game making all kinds of saves. Braden Holtby at the other end, was just as sharp making sure the Capitals claimed victory. Michal Rozsival was back in the lineup after missing a few games due to injury. Tim Erixon and Joakim Nordstrom were the two Hawks watching the annual outdoor classic from the dugout.
Alex Ovechkin had a jump in his step on this day. He was all over the Hawks early, testing Crawford. Dan Carcillo and Michael Latta started the pushing and shoving right off the bat. Brooks Laich has a couple of solid opportunities and early on it looks to be an exciting start to the game. Matt Niskanen hits Brandon Saad after an offside and the aggression builds. Ben Smith gets hit hard along the boards and Carcillo and Tom Wilson get into another pushing contest. They both head to the box for roughing creating some 4 on 4 hockey.
Brent Seabrook tries to keep a puck in the zone and has it hop over his blade. Eric Fehr breaks in alone on Crawford and with a quick move, the Capitals take a 1-0 lead. Just as the 10 minute switch end mark was about to be blown, Crawford makes an acrobatic save.
Just after the team switched ends due to sun glare, Ovechkin gathers a rebound at the side of the net and its 2-0 Capitals.
Nicklas Backstrom gives the Hawks their first power play of the game with a holding call. Hawks make short work of the man advantage when Patrick Sharp sends a shot on net from the point, it beats everyone including Holtby and the lead has been cut in half 2-1. Bryan Bickell takes a period ending penalty for high sticking, so does Troy Brouwer for roughing. The period ends with the Capitals leading in shots 15-13.
The Hawks open the middle frame with 33 seconds on the power play. As soon as Brouwer jumps out of the box, Ovechkin hits the post and then the crossbar moments later. The Hawks are able to tie the game when Fehr sends a puck behind his own net. Marian Hossa chases the slow puck down and finds Jonathan Toews who spots a wide open Saad for a simple tap in 2-2.
The hockey Gods were looking upon this game today, being the only New Year’s hockey game on at this time of day allowing the Hawks 3 straight power plays which included a 5 on 3. Lots of passing but nothing to show for it. With the weather feeling like a brisk spring day, player’s sticks were breaking at the worst possible times. Keith tries a point shot and snaps his twig in 2. The Hawks start to buzz and begin to get more pucks toward Holtby. The period ends with the Hawks regaining the shot lead 26-22.
Just over 30 seconds into the final period, Fehr rips a shot on net getting Kris Versteeg in the arm or hand. He heads to the bench and then the long walk to the dressing room and would not return. Crawford is very good as the Caps come with authority. Bickell and Sharp almost break in on a 2 on 1 but the puck stops at the blue line forcing them offside. Crawford is literally fending off the Caps by himself. Andrew Shaw gives the Caps their second power play of the game with an unnecessary trip on Joel Ward. Crawford stands on his head to keep the game tied killing the penalty. Shaw continues to play the role of the pest making sure he finishes his checks even after the whistle. Niskanen gives the Hawks a chance to bury the home team taking a boarding call on good old Shaw with 3:11 left in the game. As the penalty expires Toews then takes a hooking call and the Hawks now have the finish the game shorthanded. During the penalty kill Niskanen has the puck jump over his stick on the blue line. Saad was then on his way to the penalty box on a delayed slashing call and while the players watched Ovechkin’s stick break in half, Brouwer fires the loose puck giving the Capitals the 3-2 victory.
–Both teams had 35 shots on net.
–After the game Coach Q said Versteeg would be out “for a bit.” Last time he used those words to describe an injured player’s status Patrick Sharp missed a month. Cue the Teuvo Teravainen anticipation. Joakim Nordstrom is probably first on deck, however. But if another forward gets injured, and Dan Carcillo hardly played in this game and did appear to be favoring something, then the Hawks would need to recall another forward from Rockford, which should be interesting.
–Hawks went 1/6 on the power play with the Capitals going 1/4.
–Duncan Keith led all Hawks with 26:50 of TOI, Kane was next with 21:56. Carcillo was the lowest at 3:38.
–Toews was 57% in the faceoff dot, Richards 54%, Shaw 58% and Kruger 50%
–Patrick Sharp had 10 shots on net, Kane was right behind him with 5.
–This was the third outdoor game that Coach Q has been a part of.
–The Hawks now travel back to the UC to face the Dallas Stars on Sunday night.
Saad Toews Hossa Keith Seabrook
Versteeg Richards Kane Oduya Hjalmarsson
Sharp Shaw Bickell Rundblad Rozsival
Carcillo Kruger Smith