By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks staked out a two-goal lead in the first period Sunday night, keeping the visiting Minnesota Wild on their heels for most of the evening. The Hawks got plenty of offense to go with a solid night on the part of Corey Crawford. Chicago goes on a four-day break with the good feeling of a 4-1 win.
First Period-After the teams traded a couple of possessions, the Hawks got a shot at a goal when Andrew Shaw came around the net and centered to Patrick Sharp. The shot was off the mark, however.
Shortly thereafter, the top line got the scoring going. Marian Hossa got the puck to Brandon Saad in the Wild zone. Saad found Jonathan Toews at the left circle and the captain drove to the net and got Niklas Backstrom out of the crease. The captain centered to Hossa, who took advantage of a wide open net to give Chicago a 1-0 lead 4:17 into the period.
Nino Niederreiter got a shot on net in the seventh minute but the attempt was stopped and covered by Corey Crawford. A couple of minutes later, Chicago’s second line got in on the act. Some nifty passing from Brad Richards to Patrick Kane to Bryan Bickell culminated in Bickell knocking in Kane’s helper at the left post. The shot gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead at the 7:53 mark.
Eric Haula was sent to the box for tripping at 11:14 to put the Hawks on the power play. Toews hit the crossbar with a put back attempt but Chicago didn’t convert. Johnny Oduya hooked Jason Zucker in the 14th minute but the PK unit negated the penalty.
Hossa nearly had his second goal of the night when he got a puck between the right post and Backstrom from behind the Wild net. Minnesota got the puck out of the crease and prevented their goalie from kicking it across the goal line.
Crawford stopped shots by Zach Parise and Haula in the 17th minute. At the other end, Backstrom gloved a shot by Brent Seabrook from the right circle. Crawford lost his stick but still turned away an attempt by Nate Prosser. Ryan Carter took down Oduya with 57 seconds left and the period ended with the Hawks up a man on the ice and up 2-0 on the scoreboard.
Second Period-The Wild killed the remaining minute of power play time to open the middle frame. Both teams continued to trade opportunities over the first seven minutes of action.
The line of Patrick Sharp, Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen put together a nice shift, holding the puck in the Wild zone for an extended workout. Nothing came of the action but after a line change Chicago made good on their next tour of Minnesota territory.
Richards completed a change in momentum with his ninth goal of the season 11:08 into the period. The goal came after Backstrom deflected Kane’s shot from the slot. Richards came up with the rebound and fired home from the bottom of the left circle.
With less than four minutes to play, Jason Zucker got past Niklas Hjalmarsson and Oduya, who hooked Zucker to prevent the breakaway attempt. Zucker was awarded a penalty shot but his backhand attempt was wide of the net.
Crawford stopped a Prosser shot that was redirected by Matt Cooke with two minutes remaining to preserve the shutout. After the Wild got off a shot following the next faceoff, Hossa swiped a puck at the half boards of the Hawks zone and got a pass to Toews for the breakout.
Toews led Saad across the Minnesota blue line on an odd man rush. The pass was broken up by Jared Spurgeon but Oduya was literally Johnny-On-The-Spot. His shot from the slot glanced off a prone Spurgeon and past Backstrom for a 4-0 lead at the 18:25 mark. Chicago skated to the locker room with that advantage.
Third Period-With the Hawks in control, the only drama over the last 20 minutes centered on whether or not Crawford could secure the shutout. Chicago kept the clock moving with several solid offensive shifts throughout the first half of the final stanza.
The Wild didn’t mount much in the way of pressure on Crawford until period. Cooke removed the goose egg from the Minnesota side of the scoreboard with a put back of a Kyle Brodziak shot with 4:52 left.
David Rundblad put a puck over the glass in his own zone with just under three minutes to play. Chicago killed the penalty and skated off with the 4-1 victory.
Three Stars-Crawford (third), Bickell (second), Hossa (first)
-The Blackhawks broke with recent tradition and got some rubber in the net and had a relatively easy time of it Sunday night. Let’s hope they keep that in the back of their minds during this break in the schedule.
-Crawford stopped 36 of 37 Minnesota shots and looked pretty good in doing so. However, the penalty shot was really a case of Zucker not really having a clue as to what he wanted to do. Any chances of the Wild getting back into the game ended as his attempt sailed wide of the net.
-Minutes were spread out as the Hawks ran out the clock in the third period. Teravainen was on the ice for 14:41. Bickell saw 14:12 of ice time and every Chicago skater logged at least ten minutes.
-Chicago dominated at the dot as well as the scoreboard, winning 33 of 54 faceoffs.
-After some down time, the Blackhawks get back to the grind Friday night when they host the Winnipeg Jets Friday. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m