Well that didn’t take long.
Fans barely knew he had stepped on the ice before his presence was felt in the box score. Adam Burish, playing in his first regular season game after tearing an ACL in the preseason, came flying off the bench for his first shift in over five months. He skated straight to the back of the net, got his stick on the puck, and pushed a gorgeous wrap-around pass to Patrick Sharp in front of the net for the first goal of the game.
Only 2:34 had come off the clock when the goal was scored, and Burish hadn’t yet been on the ice for ten seconds this season.
At 2:54, Burish brought the other part of his game that fans had missed. Just 20 seconds after notching his first assist of the season, Burish drew his first penalty of the season. And, of course, it was a five minute major for fighting Richard Clune.
When the term “energy player” or “impact player” is used, fans need look no further than Burish for a definition. After throwing, and receiving, a few punches, Burish skated away from Clune with a smile on his face, pumping his fists with obvious excitement. This was the player Hawks fans had fallen in love with over the past couple years, and his emotion on the ice set the tone early.
The Hawks skated through a physical first period that ended with a 1-0 lead favoring Chicago. However, as has become all too familiar for Hawks fans recently, the second period was a different story.
Just under five minutes into the second, Dustin Brown beat Antti Niemi to tie the game. Only 61 seconds after the Brown goal, Jonathan Toews was called for a goalie interference penalty that can be best described as garbage. Toews was not only pushed into Kings’ netminder Jonathan Quick, but Quick extended his right leg to ease himself into Toews. Everyone on the ice, and in the stands at the United Center, thought the penalty was going to be on Los Angeles. It was not. And, as has been the trend for the Hawks in recent second periods, their opponent made them pay. Anze Kopitar scored at the mid point of the power play to give LA the 2-1 lead.
This would become a crucial point in the game, and perhaps the Blackhawks’ season. The recent stretch of poor second periods, punctuated by Sunday’s debacle against Detroit, has seen the flood gates open wide when the Hawks started struggling. When the Hawks lost the momentum, it snowballed in favor of the opponents until the game was either out of reach or the period ended.
Wednesday night saw a different result from the Hawks.
A strong shift from John Madden, Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd paid off with Versteeg finding the back of the net to tie the game only 95 seconds after the Kings took the lead. After Versteeg tied the game, the Hawks’ defense settled down and the flow of the action was significantly more controlled through the end of the second. Despite an early flurry and Niemi allowing two tough goals, he rebounded well.
The third period saw 17 minutes of solid checking and back-and-forth action from both teams. Both Niemi and Quick fought off tough shots in traffic to keep their respective teams in the game. After a hard hit into the boards, Dustin Brown decided he wanted to dance with Troy Brouwer. Just as Burish had done early in the first period, Brouwer landed a couple solid blows to win the fight. The hope was that the Hawks’ offense would respond.
Wayne Simmonds helped the Hawks out by taking his second dumb penalty of the game with only 1:23 remaining on a potential breakaway, but the first 83 seconds of the power play expired with the regulation game clock with the score still tied at 2-2. In regulation, Niemi stopped 27 of 29 shots while Quick had a busier night, keeping 38 of 40 regulation shots out of the net. Considering the Kings only allowed 11 shots on net in their previous game, the offensive play from the Hawks was solid; the effort from Quick was exceptional.
In the overtime, on a terrible Los Angeles turnover, Sharp got a one-on-one chance with Quick in open ice and was victorious. His second goal of the game clinched a 3-2 win for the Hawks in a game that should carry a lot of significance for the Hawks.
First, the Hawks had their regular lapse in effort in the second period, but didn’t let the game get away from them.
Secondly, they FINALLY had a netminder battle with another quality goaltender in a playoff matchup and play well. Quick was great for Los Angeles, but Niemi’s effort must be noted. He was strong for all 60 minutes against a very good Kings team, and Hawks fans should hope this propels him into a stretch of solid play that extends into the postseason.
Third, the Hawks saw contributions from all over the ice. Patrick Kane had the second assist on Sharp’s first period goal, extending his point streak to nine game. But Troy Brouwer was credited with six hits, Duncan Keith blocked three shots, Brent Sopel returned to the lineup and skated effectively and the Versteeg-Madden-Ladd line again made an impact. Niklas Hjalmarsson was also a physical force on the ice.
The Hawks are now off until a Saturday matinee in Philadelphia against the Flyers. That game, which will be broadcast on WGN in Chicago, begins at noon Central.