How about that for an introduction to Blackhawks’ hockey?
Just a little more than 24 hours after being traded from Minnesota to Chicago, Kim Johnsson took part in a game that flashed every bit of the first two-thirds of the season. Big scoring, a blown lead, a late comeback and a shootout thriller ended up being the recipe for Johnsson’s debut.
For his part in the 5-4 Hawks win, Johnsson was good enough to earn the game’s Number Three Star. He scored his first goal for Chicago less than ten minutes into his first game here, and would play 19:24 in the game and was credited with one hit and one blocked shot as well.
The game looked like a Hawks blowout at the end of the first period. After Jim Slater scored on a wrap around for Atlanta, the goals came quickly for the Blackhawks. Patrick Sharp scored his 18th of the season, on a power play, at 7:31 in the period. Johnsson would then score on a pretty pass from Patrick Kane at 9:44, and Marian Hossa scored shorthanded at 13:14 to extend the Hawks’ lead to 3-1.
The second period, as has been the trend of late, was a totally different story than the first. The Hawks were not only out-shot early in the period, but were outplayed for most of the frame. On the third penalty of the period the Thrashers were finally able to score on the power play, their third goal of the period and fourth of the game. When the second period ended, the Hawks were trailing 4-3 and were clearly frustrated.
In the third period, unfortunately, it took a huge hit that cost Hossa the rest of the night just a little more than three minutes into the period for the Hawks to wake up. Colby Armstrong caught Hossa looking down, something he rarely does in traffic, and lit him up. From the scrum that followed, both Armstrong and Kris Versteeg were hit with minor penalties. During the four-on-four, Dave Bolland put a gorgeous move on Ondrej Pavelec to tie the game.
Hossa’s status for Sunday’s game has not yet been determined.
From there, the game was skated through the overtime with very little offense from the Thrashers. Atlanta was only credited with four shots in the third period and just three more in overtime. Pavelec was outstanding throughout the third period and the overtime, killing a number of great opportunities for the Blackhawks and fighting off good traffic in front of him to keep the game tied. But when Jonathan Toews put the puck past him in the shootout, it was all the Hawks needed to give Antti Niemi a third win in as many starts.
Niemi, starting a third consecutive game for the first time in the NHL, was great in the first period but wasn’t nearly as sharp in the second. In all, Niemi allowed four goals on 27 shots, but came up big when needed and shut out the Thrashers three shots in the shootout to get the win.
Brent Seabrook, just two days before beginning his quest to help teammates Duncan Keith and Toews lead Canada to a gold medal in men’s hockey at the Olympics, filled the stat sheet as he always does. Seabrook 26:49, of which 7:19 was shorthanded, and was credited with six hits and six blocked shots. Keith again played more than half the game (30:35), despite newly-added Johnsson playing more minutes that Barker averaged for the Hawks. With Brent Sopel out on Saturday night, Jordan Hendry only played 10:10, though.
On Sunday afternoon the Blackhawks finish the first “half” of their season in Columbus only three points behind the San Jose Sharks for the top spot in the Western Conference; San Jose lost 3-1 at Buffalo on Saturday night.
Before the game, the Blackhawks honored their six Olympians before the game. Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky will play for Slovakia, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews will represent host nation Canada, while Patrick Kane will play for the United States.