The Chicago Blackhawks got into the holiday spirit in a big way on Monday night, giving their fans plenty to cheer about as they knocked off the New Jersey Devils by a score of 5-2.
Patrick Sharp led the way for the Hawks with two goals, and Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell, and Nick Leddy added tallies of their own as the Hawks coasted to an easy victory. Antti Raanta only had to make nine saves in the game as the Blackhawks’ defense limited the Devils to just 11 shots on goal in the contest.
The game started out as though the Blackhawks and Devils had both gotten into the egg nog early, as the first five and a half minutes saw just one shot on goal. The Blackhawks did get an early power play when Anton Volchenkov tripped Andrew Shaw in front of the Hawks’ net, but they weren’t able to make anything happen on that sequence, and the game remained scoreless.
After a few more minutes of sluggish hockey, the Blackhawks suddenly hit the gas pedal. Marian Hossa brought the puck up the ice, and got a puck over to Sharp in the left face-off dot. After taking a step or two, Sharp fired a shot that bounced off of Mark Fayne’s glove and into the Devils’ net, giving the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead with about seven minutes remaining in the frame.
The rest of the period proceeded in much the same fashion as the earlier stages, with the Hawks dominating possession but not peppering the net with shots on goal. Despite a late 2-on-1 break opportunity, the Devils continued to struggle to get the puck to the net as well, and after the first period, New Jersey was being outshot by the Blackhawks by a 12-2 margin.
Early in the second period though, the Devils got on the board thanks to a fantastic break in the offensive zone. After Leddy turned over the puck on a pass back towards the blue line, the Devils worked the puck in the zone and ended up firing off a shot. The puck deflected off of Mike Kostka’s leg, and then bounced off of Stephen Gionta’s stick to evade Raanta and the Devils tied things up at 1-1.
A little over two minutes later, the Blackhawks regained the lead. Leddy made up for his earlier mistake by putting a fantastic shot in on Schneider, but the Devils’ goaltender was able to get a glove on it. Unfortunately for him, the puck ended up popping out of his glove, and Kane was able to corral it near the blue paint and shove it into the net under Schneider’s leg pad, and the Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead.
About five minutes later, the Blackhawks had yet another great possession, and the result was a goal. This time, it was the third line getting in on the action this time, with Shaw getting to the front of the net to create traffic to start things off. Brandon Saad got to the corner of the ice to dig out the puck, and not seeing any other options on the ice, he somehow pushed a pass to Bickell, who roofed a shot past Shaw and Schneider to put the Blackhawks up 3-1.
The Blackhawks kept up the great pressure in the closing minutes of the period, with some chances coming both on the power play and short-handed. Kane rang a shot off the post with the man-advantage, and Hossa’s hands ended up getting slashed as he drove in towards the net in the closing seconds of the power play. After that, it was Saad getting involved again, this time on the penalty kill, as he stripped the puck off a Devil stick in the neutral zone and ended up getting robbed by the post as well with about 40 seconds remaining in the period.
Just a minute into the third period, the Devils cut the deficit back to one goal. Raanta gave up a bit of a juicy rebound in front of his cage, and Michael Ryder was there to snare the puck with his backhand and flip it into the empty cage, trimming the Blackhawks’ lead to a 3-2 margin.
Eager to make it a Patrick Hat Trick, Sharp cheated out towards center ice just a few minutes later, and the Hawks took advantage of his aggressiveness. Hossa’s pass found Sharp cutting towards the Devils’ zone, and on the ensuing breakaway Sharp easily beat Schneider with a wrist shot, giving the Blackhawks a 4-2 lead.
Not content to rest on that lead, the Blackhawks continued to push forward, and their efforts were rewarded with yet another goal. On a power play, Kris Versteeg won a faceoff, and Saad once again dug in and forced the puck out to the point. After Brent Seabrook pushed the puck to Leddy at the point, the young defenseman drove in and fired a gorgeous slap shot past Schneider to put the Hawks up 5-2.
Chicago had a couple more chances late in the game, with Sharp drilling the left post on a shot after Schneider mishandled a puck near the faceoff circle, but they weren’t able to add onto the lead, but it didn’t matter as the fans gave the team a standing ovation as they finished off their pre-Christmas slate with a huge victory.
The Hawks will be facing down a really tough three game stretch after the holiday break, with the Colorado Avalanche coming up first on the schedule on Friday night.