Niklas Hjalmarsson was out of the Arizona lineup on Sunday night, eliminating the only potential for emotion in the opening two periods of a hockey game that spent 50 minutes curing insomnia.
Indeed, to many in the stands at the United Center the idea that the players didn’t know the game started before 8 pm CT was a real possibility.
Through 40 minutes, the shot total favored Chicago 20-19. The Blackhawks had killed one penalty and been unsuccessful twice. There was very little to get excited about from either team. No hitting, little movement, lots of bad passing and ugly turnovers.
The opening two periods were just bad hockey.
In the third, however, both teams appeared to suddenly wake up.
At 7:36 into the third, Tommy Wingels received a terrific pass from John Hayden and got Chicago on the board.
Jordan Oesterle, skating in the place of injured Cody Franson, picked up the second assist on the Wingels goal.
Six minutes later, the offenses from both sides really cranked it up.
Anthony Duclair tied the game at 14:02 after a flurry of shots on Crawford.
Artem Anisimov took a neat pass from Patrick Kane only 71 seconds after the Duclair goal and gave Chicago the lead once again.
With his 18th assist of the season on Anisimov’s goal, Kane posted the 780th point of his career – moving him into fifth place in the history of the Blackhawks franchise.
With that assist, Patrick Kane passes Doug Wilson and takes sole possession of fifth-place on the #Blackhawks all-time points list.
1. Stan Mikita – 1,467
2. Bobby Hull – 1,153
3. Dennis Savard – 1,096
4. Steve Larmer – 923
5. Patrick Kane – 780
— Eric Lear (@BHTVeric) December 11, 2017
Less than two minutes later, Kane moved another point closer to Steve Larmer on the Hawks’ all-time leader board when he perfectly navigated a 2-on-1 and set up Nick Schmaltz for the Blackhawks’ third goal of the night.
The goal is the fifth of the year for Schmaltz and Kane’s 19th assist of the season.
Scott Wedgewood actually had a pretty good game for Arizona but was exposed by the Hawks in the third period. He stopped 34 of 37 in the game.
On the other end of the ice, Crawford was superb once again. Chicago’s netminder stopped 31 of 32 to earn the victory.
Vinnie Hinostroza and Brent Seabrook led the Blackhawks with five shots on goal each. Hinostroza, in his second game since being recalled from Rockford, skated 11:52 and won 10 of 15 faceoffs. He was also credited with one blocked shot, two hits and one takeaway in a solid performance.
Seabrook also led Chicago with four hits in 19:43 while blocking two hits and picking up an assist. Only three Blackhawks defensemen skated more than 20 minutes in the game: Duncan Keith (22:25), Gustav Forsling (20:36) and Oesterle (20:18). Oesterle had a nice game as well, adding a team-high three blocked shots, four shots on net and two hits to his assist.
The Blackhawks will host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.