Led by strong defensive play and a game-winning goal from Brent Seabrook, the Blackhawks went into Denver and handled their business against the sliding Avalanche on Saturday night.
The Hawks had to overcome a mediocre start, but had enough to finish the game’s opening 20 minutes with the game tied at two goals. Nathan MacKinnon scored 6:56 into the game, but that lead lasted only 31 seconds. Brandon Saad, who lost his beard over the Christmas break, scored his eighth of the season to bring the game even.
Erik Johnson scored less than 90 seconds after Saad’s goal, however, putting the Avs up 2-1. The lead would last longer than seven minutes this time until Patrick Kane scored his 17th of the season to tie the game.
Corey Crawford allowed two goals against only six shots in the opening period, but shut it down from there. Once the Hawks took the lead in the second, Crawford was solid.
Chicago had two power play opportunities in the first period and they were both ugly (to put it mildly). But when they came back for a third advantage in the second period, they were able to generate more quality looks and Seabrook got a shot past Calvin Pickard for his seventh of the season and the eventual game-winner.
Patrick Sharp, celebrating his 33rd birthday on Saturday, scored a power play goal in the third period. He recorded a hat trick on his birthday against Colorado last year, and recorded his sixth of the 2014-15 season this year.
In the middle of the third period, the Hawks were forced to kill a 5-on-3 as Johnny Oduya went to the box for hooking and was joined by Niklas Hjalmarsson 80 seconds later. The Blackhawks were able to successfully kill the 40 second two-man advantage and the remaining power play, and Colorado was not able to generate many good opportunities after those power plays concluded.
Kane added an empty net goal for his second of the night and 18th of the season. Matt Duchene gave him a whack between the legs as the goal horn sounded, and the teams came together for a conversation in the corner. It was a frustrating night for Duchene, who was caught from behind by Seabrook on a would-be breakaway and was in the box when Sharp scored his power play goal in the third.
After Duchene lost his composure, the Avs lost the game.
Kane (two goals, one assist) and Jonathan Toews (two assists) finished with multi-point evenings. Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, David Rundblad, Ben Smith and Kris Versteeg picked up assists in the victory as well, while Crawford finished the night with 23 saves.
For Chicago, Kane now has three 3-point games in his last five contests, and has 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 12 games in December.
Smith won six of ten faceoffs and led the team with three hits, while Hjalmarsson was credited with a team-leading four blocked shots.
Daniel Carcillo skated only ten shifts (7:16) and Bryan Bickell got on the ice for only 14 (8:35), the lowest ice time totals among Hawks forwards. Tim Erixon (12 shifts, 7:37) was the low man on the blue line.
The Hawks will finish the calendar year at home against Nashville on Monday.