It took over 76 minutes to complete, but the Blackhawks emerged from Game One with a crucial victory to begin their first round series against the Minnesota Wild.
The story of the night was the battle between the two netminders, only one of whom was supposed to be in net on Tuesday night.
For Minnesota, should-be starter Niklas Backstrom left the ice during warm-ups and had to be helped to the dressing room. He was replaced by Josh Harding, who played a magnificent game on short notice. Harding stopped 35 of 37 shots in the game, but took the loss as Chicago was able to score the deciding blow in overtime.
Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford was equally exceptional. After allowing a first period goal to Cal Clutterbuck, Crawford slammed the door shut. When the dust settled and the final horn sounded, Crawford had made 26 saves against 27 shots and earned a hard-fought victory.
That deciding tally came off the stick of Bryan Bickell, who was set up by a gorgeous pass from Viktor Stalberg. The Blackhawks’ third line was great all night, and certainly earned their time in the spotlight afforded by the game-winner. The line of Andrew Shaw, Bickell and Shaw combined for 12 hits in the game (seven from Shaw) and two takeaways in the game. For much of the night, the third line was the Blackhawks’ most effective; each of the three skaters was credited with two shots on net.
Chicago’s superstars came to play as well. Marian Hossa scored Chicago’s first goal, a powerplay score in the second period. Jonathan Toews won 18 of 26 faceoffs in the game, and Patrick Kane was credited with the primary assist on Hossa’s goal.
The Blackhawks received quality contributions from all of their defensemen as well. Michal Rozsival led all Hawks’ defensemen in ice time (27:11) and was credited with six hits and two blocked shots. His partner on the Hawks’ third defensive pair, Johnny Oduya, skated 26:47 and was credited with three hits and two takeaways. Oduya also had an assist on the game-winning goal.
Chicago killed all four of the Wild’s powerplays, while converting on one of three.
Minnesota certainly received a quality return on their investment in Ryan Suter on Tuesday night. Suter skated 41:08 and blocked four shots in the game. Jared Spurgeon led the Wild with seven blocked shots, while Mike Rupp led the way with six hits. Jonas Brodin, Suter’s partner on the blue line, was credited with five hits and two blocked shots in 34:20 on the ice.
Game Two will be in Chicago on Friday night.
Elsewhere in the NHL:
- St. Louis and Los Angeles also played into overtime. The Blues won the game 2-1 on a terribly played puck by Jonathan Quick led to the game-winning goal. Alex Steen scored both of the Blues’ goals. Quick stopped 40 of 42 shots in the loss.
- The only game of the night that didn’t go to overtime was in Anaheim, where the Ducks defeated the Red Wings 3-1.