After Adam Burish said he felt Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was the most overrated goalie of the last decade during the pregame show, the skaters on the ice had to work hard to beat him at the United Center on Thursday night.
Coach Joel Quenneville mixed up his lines again (shocking!), moving Nick Schmaltz to the third line with Alexandre Fortin and Luke Johnson. Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov opened up with Patrick Kane.
It took less than three minutes for the Blackhawks to get on the board. Jonathan Toews opened the scoring with his sixth of the season.
Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford picked up the assists on Toews’ goal.
Unfortunately the Hawks only held onto the initial lead for 74 seconds until Pavel Buchnevich tied the game.
At the end of 20 minutes, the Blackhawks held an 11-7 shot advantage and did a nice job of controlling the flow.
But Chicago has looked good in the first period frequently over the last 13 months, only to see the the wheels completely fly off in the second period.
That was not the case on Thursday.
At the mid-point of the second period, Schmaltz made a terrific play in the offensive zone and set the puck up perfectly for Fortin, who was sitting on the doorstep for the easy tap-in.
Chicago out-shot New York 12-11 in the second period and carried a 2-1 lead to the third period.
Though there were a few stressful moments early in the third, the Hawks were able to add a couple insurance goals.
Kane appeared to score a goal nearly 16 minutes into the third period to extend the lead to 3-1. The play went to an initial review which determined it was a good goal. The Rangers then challenged the call on the ice, saying Kane had interfered with Lundqvist. The second review was quick: still a good goal.
Alex DeBrincat would add an empty net goal with 69 seconds left in regulation to close the books. The goal is DeBrincat’s eighth of the season already.
Domink Kahun and Henri Jokiharju picked up assists on the empty net goal.
Brandon Manning and Jimmy Vesey dropped the gloves with 46 seconds left in regulation because Vesey hadn’t done anything else and Manning needed an early shower. They danced a bit, Vesey landed a few punches, and both were sent off for the night.
Over the final 15 minutes the Blackhawks completely shut down the Rangers’ offense. When the dust settled after the final horn, the Rangers had – officially – one (1) shot on net in the final 20 minutes. The Hawks were credited with 14 shots on net in the third.
Even though he faced only one shot in the third, Crawford was marvelous all night. He made some big saves in the second period and earned his third consecutive victory. He appears to be in great shape after being out of the Chicago lineup for 300 days.
Kane’s third period goal gives him nine in the Hawks’ first ten games. He’s the first Chicago skater to do that since Jeremy Roenick in 1993-94.
Kane and Brent Seabrook led the team with five shots on goal each.
DeBrincat was the only Hawks skater with two points in the night and he ended up with a plus-three rating.
Crawford now has a .963 save percentage in his last three games, winning all of them.
Toews’ goal in the first period was the 298th of his career, moving him into a tie with Dennis Hull for sixth all-time among Blackhawks skaters.
Chris Kunitz will collect a paycheck for Thursday night. Somehow.