The Chicago Blackhawks used a tremendous third period and a tremendous overall night by captain Jonathan Toews to beat the Winnipeg Jets for the third time this season, this time winning by a score of 6-3.
In addition to Toews, Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane, Ben Smith, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa all scored goals for the Hawks as they came back with a great offensive effort just two nights after being dominated by the Colorado Avalanche.
The first period started out with the Hawks dominating possession, and as a result of their collective effort and team speed, they were able to get a quick power play chance. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to score despite a couple of sustained possessions, and the game remained scoreless.
Despite their lack of success on the man advantage, the Blackhawks continued their aggressive approach to the game. They got plenty of pucks on Ondrej Pavelec, but still couldn’t get anything past him. The Jets tried everything that they could to slow down the Hawks’ attack, including pulling back extra players to contest the Hawks’ zone exits, but nothing could quite do the trick as Chicago continued to dominate.
Later in the first period, the Blackhawks took advantage of a silly penalty by Evander Kane, as he stretched out his leg to go knee-to-knee on Brandon Saad behind the Hawks’ net. The Hawks’ strategy on that power play changed to draw Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (and his 6’3” frame) to the front of the net, and the strategy paid dividends. Andrew Shaw set himself up at the top of the blue paint, and Patrick Kane found an open seam on the ice and fired an excellent wrist shot past Pavelec to give Chicago a 1-0 lead after the first period.
As the second period got underway, the tempo of the game picked up both ways, and both teams picked up penalties as they tried to compensate for the change of pace. The Hawks struck first after Marian Hossa made a tremendous play along the boards to get the puck away from two Winnipeg defenders, and he found a streaking Saad for the one-timer goal to put the Blackhawks ahead 2-0.
That lead didn’t last long though, as the Jets finally struck gold later on the 4-on-4. Bryan Little performed an excellent spin move on his zone entry, and it drew three Hawks’ defenders over to that side of the ice. Spotting an opening, Winnipeg captain (and former Blackhawk) Andrew Ladd grabbed the pass from Little roofed a wrist shot past Crawford to narrow the deficit to 2-1.
That score lasted about 30 seconds, as the Jets tied the game in short order. On a brief 33 second power play, the Jets gained the zone and the puck found Byfuglien along the blue line, and he feathered a tremendous pass to Keaton Ellerby, who unleashed a fantastic shot that eluded Crawford and brought the crowd at MTS Centre to their feet.
Later on in the second period though, the tempo remained high and it played to the Hawks’ advantage. Making a great play along the boards, Jonathan Toews spun off of a potential check and cut back inside to the middle in one fluid motion, and he ended up roofing a wrist shot from in close to Pavelec to put the Hawks back up by a 3-2 margin.
That lead was also short-lived though, as the Jets found yet another offensive gear. Byfuglien tossed a pass into the zone, and immediately made a beeline for the net. His effort was rewarded when Niklas Hjalmarsson attempted to clear the puck out, and it ended up right on Byfuglien’s stick, and he barely was able to get the puck to bounce off Crawford and roll into the net and made the score 3-3 at the end of the second period.
The third period started out like the Jets were intent on taking the lead, establishing possession early and often in the Hawks’ end of the ice. Unfortunately for them, the Hawks’ shot-blockers were in full-on attack mode, and Crawford was more than up to the task to stop them.
Coming off of a long Winnipeg possession, the Hawks were able to get the lead on a great rush by two of their primary offensive catalysts. Toews burst up the ice with the puck, and was able to get a step ahead of the Jets’ defense, and he feathered a great saucer pass onto Hossa’s stick just in front of the net. The puck ended up going top shelf as Hossa gently flicked his wrists to beat Pavelec.
Once again, the Jets turned up the pressure on the Hawks and Crawford, but the possession was again fruitless as the Hawks turned the play back up ice. Ben Smith chipped the puck into the offensive zone, and went and chased down his own dump-in. After the puck found its way to Kris Versteeg, the newest Blackhawk put a shot on net that Pavelec was only able to kick out a short distance, and Smith was there to pop home the rebound to make it 5-3 Blackhawks.
The game progressed rather slowly the rest of the way, with occasional chances by both teams, and when Toews got the puck up to Patrick Sharp in the game’s closing minute, Sharp didn’t miss the empty cage, and gave the Hawks their final 6-3 margin of victory.
The Blackhawks will next play on Saturday night when they head over to Vancouver to take on the hated Canucks.