Thursday night’s game in Minnesota exposed what can be good and bad about this year’s Blackhawks.
The game started with Jonathan Toews’ line dominating action, as it has done often early this year. Ten minutes into the game, Toews battled his way through a defender and got a pass to an open Alex DeBrincat for an easy shot.
Less than three minutes later Toews was in a sharing mood again. This time he set up Dominik Kahun and the rookie slammed home his first career NHL goal.
DeBrincat picked up the second assist on the Kahun goal, giving him (and Toews) two points in the first period.
Cam Ward came out strong and kept the Hawks in the game. But, if we’re honest, the Hawks got away with some incredibly sloppy play in their own end that they survived because Minnesota simply couldn’t find a way to finish.
At the end of 20 minutes, the Blackhawks held a 2-0 advantage.
The sloppy defensive play continued in the second period but Minnesota remembered how to finish. At 13:19 Jason Zucker set up Eric Staal for a goal. Staal returned the favor, setting up Zucker who tied the game with less than three seconds left in the period.
Chicago got outworked the entire middle 20 minutes and paid the price. The game was tied at two after 40 minutes, and could have been worse if not for some more good work by Ward.
Two minutes into the third period Chicago got a power play. At that point in the season, the Blackhawks had yet to score with the so-called advantage.
DeBrincat ended the drought off a nice feed from Patrick Kane.
DeBrincat’s fourth of the season gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead that they were able to maintain until there were 23 seconds remaining in regulation.
Short-handed with the goaltender skating to the bench, Ryan Suter picked up a loose puck on the doorstep with everyone in white paying attention to the opposite side of the ice.
And for the fourth time in as many games to start the new season, the Hawks went to overtime.
Ward faced 43 shots in regulation, allowing only three to go in (with very little help from his friends).
Chicago opened OT with 45 seconds of power play time left on the clock, but did nothing during the 4-on-3 time.
With under three minutes left in the extra session, Kane and DeBrincat got a breakaway and Kane made a beautiful move that was somehow stopped by Devan Dubnyk. The Wild streaked the other way and got a great chance only to get stoned by Ward.
With 95 seconds left in overtime, Zucker won the game after Suter stripped Brandon Saad at the other end of the ice.
The result was unfortunate for Ward, who was the best player on the ice for the visitors on Thursday night. He deserved better but the Hawks’ sloppy defensive play cost them a second point against a team that was struggling offensively coming into the game.
In his NHL debut, Alexandre Fortin skated 8:49 and was minus-two with one shot on net, one hit and one takeaway. He showed good speed up and down the ice, reminding us why we’re angry Chris Kunitz is on the roster. Kunitz skated 9:06 and was minus-two as well with just one shot on net.
Toews had two assists and won 15 of 25 faceoffs. DeBrincat had three points and finished tied with Kane for the forward lead with four shots on net. Duncan Keith led Chicago skaters with five shots on net in his 999th career regular season game.
Rookie Henri Jokiharju finished second among defenseman in time on ice at 22:18.