The Blackhawks came into Tuesday night’s game against the Flames playing well. Only the Blues (in first place) had won as many as Chicago in their last ten in the Central Division; even though the Hawks were in last place with 44 points, they were only six points out of fourth.
And Chicago beat Calgary in their barn 5-3 on New Year’s Eve.
Alex Nylander returned to the lineup for Matthew Highmore as the Blackhawks looked to continue their recent run of improved play. And the opening 20 minutes were solid from Chicago. The Hawks spent a lot of time in the Calgary end of the ice but couldn’t quite beat Cam Talbot. That changed when Dominik Kubalik set up shop in front of Talbot and Adam Boqvist unloaded from the point.
Boqvist and Patrick Kane picked up the assists for Chicago.
After the opening period the Blackhawks had a 14-6 shot advantage and a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard.
The second 20 minutes were the complete opposite of the first.
Calgary tied the game 14 seconds into the second period on Elias Lindholm’s 17th of the season.
Dylan Strome went down awkwardly and immedlately skated to the bench and went to the room. He did not return during the remainder of the period.
In the middle of the period the Blackhawks survived a 5-on-3 very well thanks to terrific work from Jonathan Toews.
However, Lindholm hit a bouncing puck clean at 16 minutes into the second period and beat Corey Crawford on the short side to give Calgary a 2-1 lead. Kirby Dach turned the puck over on the play and, for the effort, got trucked by Matthew Tkachuk after the puck was in the net.
Calgary got more physical as the second period progressed and carried the action. The visitors out-shot the Hawks 14-12 in the second period and held a 2-1 lead off two Lindholm goals after 40 minutes.
One line that was surprisingly strong through the opening two periods was Nylander with David Kampf and Zack Smith. That trio was on the ice together at even strength for almost six minutes (5:51) and generated eight shots on net while only one shot against reached the Chicago cage.
Kane had already put five shots on net in 14:06 through two periods. Duncan Keith had three shots on net and a team-high four blocked shots in 17:39 of the opening 40 minutes.
For those scoreboard watching, before the third period began the Blackhawks already got help from the Rangers (beat the Avs 5-3) and the Preds (one point ahead of the Blackhawks with a new coach) were losing at home to Boston. There was ground to be gained, but the Hawks were chasing one at home.
Strome did not return for the third period with a right ankle injury.
Chicago was called for a penalty in the opening moments of the third period as Erik Gustafsson was guilty of a trip. Calgary kept control of the puck in the offensive zone with an extra attacker on for a good 40-50 seconds before the Hawks were finally able to get a stoppage and begin the penalty kill.
With 77 seconds left on the Calgary power play, Smith put the Blackhawks down two men for the second time in the game.
Crawford made two huge saves during the two-man advantage to keep the score at 2-1. Chicago was able to kill the first penalty. And the second. And the Hawks got a good scoring chance as the second penalty ended as Dach secured a takeaway and Smith tried to feed Kampf on the doorstep.
Chicago got a power play late in the third and Jeremy Colliton opened with Toews, Kane, Dach, Boqvist and Alex DeBrincat (nice). They couldn’t convert on the advantage, however, and the score remained.
Crawford left the ice with two minutes remaining in regulation.
The Hawks got a few good looks but Talbot was good enough to hang on. Calgary out-shot the Hawks 8-6 in the final period; it took 11 minutes in the final frame for the Hawks to register their second shot on goal, however.
Kane finished with seven of Chicago’s 32 shots on net in 23:42 on the ice.
Toews won 15 of 27 faceoffs in the game without Strome for most of the final 40 minutes. He won seven of 11 in the final period.
Colliton showed more confidence in Boqvist and Dach. Boqvist skated 23:08 and Dach was on the ice for 18:33 – both were on the ice in the closing minutes with the empty net.
Keith finished with four blocked shots, three shots and two takeaways in 27:05.
After the morning skate, Stan Bowman met with the media for the first time during the regular season to discuss the first half of the 2019-20 campaign.
Nashville lost their game, leaving the Hawks one point behind the Preds.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 7, 2020