By Jon Fromi
It was a true goalie win for the Chicago Blackhawks Monday night in Charlotte. Corey Crawford made 43 saves against the Carolina Hurricanes on a night where the Hawks spent a lot of time in their own zone. Chicago mustered enough offense in the first ten minutes to come away with a 3-1 victory.
First Period-Carolina got an early power play (the only one for either team, as it turned out) when Marcus Kruger held Elias Lindholm 1:34 into the game. Lindholm got off a shot late in the man advantage that Crawford sent away but Chicago prevented any further trouble.
The Blackhawks were held without a shot for most of the first eight minutes. However, the first shot wound up in the back of the Carolina net. Kruger got the ball rolling by picking off a Eric Staal pass and gaining entry into the offensive zone.
After Michael Rozsival’s shot failed to reach the net, Patrick Sharp chased down the loose puck in the right corner of the Hurricanes zone and got it to Kruger behind the net. The centering pass to Andrew Shaw was on the money and the resulting shot found its way past Anton Khudobin at the 7:48 mark for a 1-0 Hawks lead.
Seventy-nine seconds later, Chicago’s second shot also hugged twine. Niklas Hjalmarsson got the play started in the neutral zone, sending the puck to Marian Hossa off the left half boards for the entry into the Hurricanes zone. Hossa passed to Sharp on his way to the left post and the tip in gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 advantage 9:07 into the opening period.
The teams traded shots for most of the remainder of the period. Joakim Nordstrom backhanded an attempt in the19th minute that Khudobin knocked down. Antoine Vermette jumped on the rebound but was also denied. Chicago went into the first intermission with a two-goal lead.
Second Period-The Hurricanes cut the lead in half early in the middle stanza and took it to Chicago, outshooting the Blackhawks 19-6.
A stretch pass from John-Michael Liles found Eric Staal behind the Hawks defense. Crawford came up with the pad save on Staal’s backhand attempt but Victor Rask cleaned up the rebound 3:54 into the period.
Jeff Skinner’s bid to draw Carolina even moments later was stopped by Crawford in what would be a familiar theme throughout the rest of the game. Again, the Blackhawks went nearly ten minute without putting a shot on goal.
Chicago nearly struck again with just over a minute left when Brad Richards got the puck to the doorstep. However, Khudobin pounced on it before Bryan Bickell could do anything with the rebound. The score of 2-1 held up as the teams hit the locker room.
Third Period-Chicago put some early pressure on Khudobin but for the most part the Hurricanes picked up where they left off in the previous 20 minutes. Justin Falk created a prime scoring chance that Crawford smothered after knocking down the shot attempt in the fourth minute.
Carolina had a strong shift in the fifth and sixth minutes, holding the puck in the Hawks zone and getting off several shots that Crawford turned away. Khudobin denied Brandon Saad at the right post soon after.
Crawford used his mask to foil a Jordan Staal attempt midway through the third. On Carolina’s next trip down the ice, he stopped shots by Rask and Elias Lindholm.
Crawford was under siege in the last ten minutes of the contest but kept the puck out of his net. Johnny Oduya helped out with a key block in the 17th minute after the Hurricanes took several shots at rebounding pucks.
Khudobin stopped another drive by Saad with 1:45 to play and then skated to the bench in favor of an extra skater. Chicago fought off the late push as Toews came up with a key block of Jeff Skinner. Joakim Nordstrom collected the puck and passed to Shaw for the empty-netter to close out the game.
Three Stars-Rask (third), Sharp (second), Crawford (first).
-There was just the one penalty by Kruger but it often looked like the Hawks were on the kill Monday. Chicago was outshot 44-25 on the evening. Thank you, Corey.
-It was fun to see that coach Joel Quenneville flipped his first two centers to give the Hurricanes something to think about. Hopefully the fact that there wasn’t much in the way of offense doesn’t scare him off giving those lines another spin to see what might develop.
-The road trip continues in Philadelphia Wednesday night.