There are games when you don’t even want to start reading the comments… And, after a nice comeback victory in Carolina on Saturday, many were hoping Sunday wouldn’t be one of those nights.
Coach Joel Quenneville indicated before the game that there might be some changes to his lineup in spite of the win on Saturday night, and those moves were interesting indeed. John Hayden, Jordan Oesterle and Michal Kempny were inserted into a lineup that featured seven defensemen; Ryan Hartman, Cody Franson and Tommy Wingels took a seat for Chicago.
The Blackhawks started the game out in a way that got everyone excited. Only 42 seconds into the game, Jan Rutta unloaded a shot that was credited to Artem Anisimov. Either way, the Blackhawks were up 1-0.
Brent Seabrook went to the box for tripping Miles Wood at 2:12 and Wood made the power play count, scoring his fourth of the game.
Seabrook went back to the box 75 seconds after the Wood goal after hooking Jesper Bratt, but Chicago was able to kill the second penalty.
Kyle Palmieri and Richard Panik mixed it up and both went to the box and the Blackhawks got to work during the 4-on-4 action. Last night’s headliner, Alex DeBrincat, took care of finishing the business end of the offense for his sixth of the season.
Nick Schmaltz picked up the only assist on the DeBrincat goal, starting an impressive night for the Hawks’ young forward. Schmaltz was flying in the opening period, making plays on both ends of the ice and aggressively getting the puck into open areas to create opportunities.
Damon Severson went to the box for Jersey 60 seconds after the DeBrincat goal and Rutta put one home the official scorer couldn’t award to anyone else.
Tanner Kero waited only 22 seconds to extend the Blackhawks lead to 4-1.
Wood scored his second of the opening period to get the Devils back to within 4-2 only 36 seconds after the Kero goal, and the first period would end with Chicago hanging onto a two-goal advantage.
The Blackhawks out-shot the Devils 17-12 in the opening 20 minutes and carried most of the action.
That would change quickly in the second.
Wood’s goal to close out the first period would be the first of five unanswered goals for New Jersey. Andy Greene scored at 3:07, rookie Nico Hischier tied the game at 6:52 and Taylor Hall gave the Devils the lead with his 400th career regular season point at 12:15.
Brian Gibbons gave the visitors a two-goal lead at 17:05 and the United Center was vocal with their anger at the Blackhawks’ performance.
Chicago would get a power play late in the second and Patrick Kane got the Hawks back into the scoring column with under three seconds left in the middle period, cutting the lead to 6-5.
Somehow the Blackhawks still out-shot the Devils in the second period, but the wheels were completely off the wagon when the horn sounded.
And the night was over for Corey Crawford after 40 minutes. When the Hawks took the ice for the third period, Anton Forsberg was between the pipes; Crawford allowed six goals against 25 shots.
Even with the change in goal, the Hawks came out to open the third totally flat. Jersey attacked the new netminder and got Panik to take a frustration penalty. Wood completed the first hat trick of his career at 2:21 into the third and Jersey was back to a two-goal lead.
With an assist on the third Wood goal, Jesper Bratt became the first player in the NHL to have five points in his first two career regular season games since Vladimir Tarasenko did so in 2013.
Hischier, the number one overall pick in this summer’s draft, picked up the second assist on Wood’s third goal to give him a three-point night.
And the dumpster was fully ablaze.
To his credit, Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid rebounded from a shaky first period to stone the Blackhawks over the final 40 minutes. But once the Devils caught up and took the lead, the Hawks looked like a team that was not only playing the second half of a back-to-back, but also a team that was lost and had seven defensemen in the lineup.
The play of Rutta, Schmaltz and DeBrincat were the few bright spots for Chicago.
Schmaltz saw his ice time increase again, up to almost 22 minutes. He had two assists, two takeaways and two blocked shots.
DeBrincat skated over 15 minutes in the game with five shots on net and a goal.
Rutta had three points, two blocked shots, one hit and three shots on net in 23 minutes on the ice.
The rest of the roster looked like garbage.
Jonathan Toews won 11 of 18 at the dot and put six shots on net but failed to register a point. Panik had almost as many penalty minutes (four) as he did hits (team-high five). Anisimov won 12 of 32 at the dot. And Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp failed get a point on the board again as well.
Quenneville’s seven defensemen experiment failed and the Hawks – after looking great in the first after a strong performance in Carolina – are right back searching for answers.
Before the game, the Blackhawks honored legendary forward Al Secord with One More Shift.