The Chicago Blackhawks were able to come back from a 2-0 deficit thanks to goals from Johnny Oduya and Andrew Shaw, but it was a Matt Duchene power play goal in overtime that gave the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 victory on Tuesday night.
Corey Crawford made 23 saves in the game, and Semyon Varlamov was at his very best as he turned away 46 shots in a winning effort for the visitors.
The Blackhawks got an early gift just 10 seconds into the game as Erik Johnson was whistled for interference after tangling with Patrick Sharp, but in a tone-setting sequence, the Blackhawks weren’t able to capitalize on the chance, and the Avs dodged the early bullet.
Despite the failure on the man-advantage, the Hawks continued to pepper Varlamov with shots, and eventually that pressure forced the Colorado into another mistake as captain Gabriel Landeskog was sent off for a hooking infraction. Despite some good possession time, the Hawks were only able to get three shots on goal in the ensuing power play, and the Avalanche once again escaped unscathed.
Those failures to score finally came back to bite the Blackhawks, as the Avalanche were able to grab the lead with about five minutes left in the period. Collecting the puck at the point, Tyson Barrie, who had missed several games with a shoulder injury, fired a slapshot towards the net, and with several players from both teams screening the net, Crawford didn’t get a glimpse of the puck until it was already going past him, and Colorado took a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, the Avalanche were given another golden opportunity, as Kris Versteeg was sent off for a hooking penalty. It took all of 10 seconds for the Avalanche to win a faceoff and get a possession set up. Jamie McGinn and Nick Holden both made excellent touch passes, and the puck found its way to Ryan O’Reilly in front of the net, and he was able to snap a wrist shot past Crawford to push the Colorado advantage to 2-0.
The Blackhawks looked like they were going to give the Avs the chance to extend the lead even further, as Hossa picked up another hooking minor just four seconds after the goal was scored. The Hawks were able to kill that penalty off, and even though they once again failed to score on a late power play after a Max Talbot slashing penalty, they still went into the first intermission down by just a 2-0 margin.
The second period started out with the Avalanche on their heels once again, and less than two minutes in Matt Duchene was sent off for a slashing penalty. Yet again though, the Blackhawks were able to get some decent possession time but couldn’t quite get the puck in the net as Varlamov continued his crease acrobatics to keep the Colorado lead at two goals.
Duchene got a scoring chance of his own as he was coming out of the penalty box, but his shot ended up finding the post much to the relief of the Hawks.
Finally, the Hawks’ persistence paid off, and they finally got on the board. After circling the zone with the puck, Brandon Saad fired a wrist shot into heavy traffic, and it was Oduya in front of the net who ended up getting ultimate credit for the goal that gave the Hawks the lead. Leading the traffic in front was Shaw, but the puck ended up going off of Oduya and into the net to narrow the deficit to 2-1.
The Blackhawks had an opportunity to get on the board in the late stages of the second period when they got yet another power play, but thanks to an iffy high-stick call on a play by Shaw, the chance went by the wayside as the Hawks trailed by a score of 2-1 at the second intermission.
The third period started out with the Hawks on the power play, and despite some great puck movement, the Hawks weren’t able to capitalize for the fifth consecutive chance. Varlamov coughed up a couple of juicy rebounds, but his teammates were able to clear out the zone and keep the lead intact.
After a key Blackhawks penalty kill led by Hossa, Chicago resumed their aggressive pressure on Varlamov, and he finally cracked. Hossa whipped a shot into the goal mouth, and it hit Varlamov up high. Saad then pounded another shot on net, and when that one bounced in the air, it was Shaw who was able to put his stickblade down on top of it to settle it down, and in one fluid motion wheeled around and flipped a shot past Varlamov’s right pad to tie the game at 2-2 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game.
Both teams exchanged some good chances in the ensuing minutes, with Duchene getting a great look in close, but Crawford was able to smother the shot and not concede a rebound. On the other end, Michal Rozsival made a great pinch in from the point, and got to the net before firing a snapshot that beat Varlamov but ended up ringing off the inside of the post to keep things tied.
The back-and-forth continued with about three minutes left in the game when Sharp got a great chance in the slot, but Varlamov was able to flip the left pad out and knock it away from a net-crashing Jonathan Toews. Then at the other end, Cody McLeod got a tremendous chance in front of the net as the Avalanche crashed in, but the puck slipped just past the far post as the Hawks dodged a huge bullet, and eventually forced the game to overtime.
The overtime period got off to a heart-stopping start for the Hawks, as Brent Seabrook was forced to make a diving play to pokecheck the stick off of Nathan MacKinnon, who was coming on a breakaway in the opening minute.
With just over a minute left in the overtime, the Avalanche got a power play, and they made the Blackhawks pay. Niklas Hjalmarsson turned the puck over in the defensive zone, and the puck eventually found its way to Duchene as he fired home a shot from the slot to give Colorado a 3-2 victory.
The Blackhawks will have a couple of days before they lick their wounds before they take on the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night in a big showdown between arguably the two best teams in the Western Conference.