The Blackhawks played an entertaining game against the Minnesota Wild Wednesday and captured a 4-3 shootout win. The gamewas fun to watch and had a little of everything: fast-paced action, very good goal keeping, a fight, poor officiating and a dazzling shootout goal.
In the opening period, the Wild battled but couldn’t find their skating legs. The night before, Minnesota played a hard-fought match and had to travel home from Winnipeg. It was also their first game back after a five-game road trip, so it wasn’t surprising the Blackhawks would have the upper hand early.
The Wild were able to weather the storm in the opening frame despite being outshot 11-2. The Blackhawks stayed determined and solved Niklas Backstrom twice in the opening 11 minutes of the middle stanza. The Wild wouldn’t go away quietly, though, as both teams headed into the third period tied at two.
In the third period, the team captains took their turn to dent the twine. Jonathan Toews gave the Hawks the lead on a beautiful individual effort at 6:54. Then, with slightly less than five minutes remaining, a Mikko Koivu shot deflected off of Nick Leddy and beat Ray Emery.
The game remained tied through overtime as both teams had chances to score. The Wild and the Hawks had three shots each in extra time. Minnesota recorded 28 shots after the opening frame to be outshot only 31-30.
In the shootout, Toews put a nice shot past Backstrom to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. Emery played another solid game, stopping both Minnesota shooters, and the stage was set for Patrick Kane to win the game.
Kane left those in attendance in awe as he sped over the blue line and pulled up almost to a stop. No player can handle the puck as close to their body better than Kane. The Blackhawk winger made many head fakes and jukes within a few feet of Backstrom. When the very patient Kane got Backstrom to bite hard on a move he held the puck and shot it into a wide open net.
Kane’s goal was the best I have seen in a shootout because it wasn’t a trick shot. He didn’t fully stop and turn away from the net, which shouldn’t be allowed. Kane kept heading toward the goal but was able to slow down to almost a stop and wait Backstrom out while stick handling. Not many players have the skill to make that play.
The Hawks earned a hard fought point against a strong opponent. The Blackhawks showed they can play well against a tight checking team and were also good defensively for most of the game. Emery continues to impress and Corey Crawford may not got back into action this weekend.
The Blackhawks return to the United Center to face Anaheim on Friday.
The Ducks have not done much better since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench. Since the coaching change the Ducks are 2-3-1. That type of record is not nearly good enough for the Anaheim to have a sniff at the playoffs. Even so, the Ducks did beat the Coyotes on Wednesday night.
As has been the case for much of the season the Hawks win, but don’t make it easy. The next two games are a good opportunity to pick up two victories.
This time of the season there are more distractions, especially while playing at home. Sharp focus will be the key issue for the Hawks as they take on the Ducks and then face the Calgary Flames on Sunday.
John Scott’s presence on the ice probably cost the Hawks one point last night. Maybe it won’t matter concerning point totals for the season and playoff seedings. Then again, it could make a big difference in the highly competitive Western Conference.
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