Mike Kostka scored his first career goal, and Bryan Bickell and Brandon Pirri also added tallies in a second period outburst as the Chicago Blackhawks knocked off the Toronto Maple Leafs by a 3-1 margin on Saturday night at the United Center.
Corey Crawford wasn't tested very often in this one, only having to stop 19 shots in helping the Hawks to a 5-1-2 record on the young season.
The first period was a largely uneventful one for both sides. The Blackhawks did hold a 9-3 lead in the shots department, but were relying largely on chances from low percentage areas, and were once again having difficulty in actually getting sustained possession in the Leafs’ end of the ice.
The second period was a completely different story, however. After a bit of a sluggish start, the Hawks got their first goal of the contest when Bickell fired a shot on Jonathan Bernier, and when the Leafs’ goalie couldn’t hold onto the puck with his glove, Bickell followed his own rebound and grabbed the puck in front. After a nice dangle that saw him keep the puck on his backhand side to avoid any pokecheck attempts by Bernier, Bickell flipped it to his forehand and pushed it into the net to give the Hawks the lead.
The lead didn’t least for very long, as the Maple Leafs picked up a quick power play. Nazem Kadri ended up making a nice play when Johnny Oduya fanned on a pokecheck attempt against the young center, and Kadri fired a shot past Crawford to tie the game at 1-1.
The pace really livened up after those two goals, and the Hawks took full advantage as they really opened up the after-burners. On a nice give and go at the top of the offensive zone by Nick Leddy and Brandon Pirri, Kostka jumped into the play and found an open seam. Pirri fed him the puck, and Kostka didn’t miss as he gave the Hawks the lead back.
Unlike in previous games where they had sat on leads, the Hawks didn’t stop there. In the late stages of a power play, and Brent Seabrook played catch with the puck at the top of the zone, and eventually it found its way to Brandon Saad in the faceoff dot, and he fired a quick pass that Pirri put past Bernier to widen the lead up to a 3-1 margin.
As the third period started, the Hawks looked to continue what they had started in the second as they once again raised the tempo of the game. On a good possession early in the period, Joakim Nordstrom grabbed a big rebound in front of the net and appeared to give the Hawks a three-goal cushion. Unfortunately for Chicago, Bickell was whistled for goaltender interference on the play as he skated through the zone, and the goal was disallowed, and the Leafs were sent to the power play.
The Leafs did pick up a couple of good chances on the ensuing man-advantage play, but were unable to score on either of their two power plays in the middle of the frame. Crawford really stood tall in those times, but it was the shot-blocking of guys like Marcus Kruger, who took a puck off his midsection towards the tail end of a successful kill, that really did the trick.