The ice conditions weren't ideal, but that hardly mattered to the Chicago Blackhawks as they showed off some great offensive skill in knocking off the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1 at Solider Field on Saturday night.
Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Kris Versteeg, and Bryan Bickell all picked up goals for the Blackhawks in the outdoor game.
The game got off to a fairly slow start as the snow continued to pile up on the ice, and neither team was able to get much in the way of sustained scoring chances as a result. The Hawks did get the first few chances of the game, including a nice shot from Toews on a cut through the slot towards Fleury, but he couldn’t get it to go as the game remained scoreless.
The Blackhawks got a couple of power plays back to back in the middle stages of the first period, but despite some good chances, they still couldn’t find a way to beat Fleury. Keith and Seabrook both fired huge slap shots from the point, but they were both blocked down, and then Sharp had a chance from in close that was smothered by Fleury to keep the game scoreless.
After several more quality chances, the Blackhawks were finally able to break through. After a nice back-pass from Toews to Sharp yielded a quality chance, the Penguins suffered a serious defensive lapse and let Sharp get the puck again in space in the face-off dot. He took full advantage, taking a step toward the net and then unleashing a gorgeous wrist shot that banked in off the far post to get the Soldier Field crowd roaring as the Hawks took the lead with about four minutes remaining in the frame.
The Hawks were forced to kill off a late power play at the end of the first, with Johnny Oduya heading to the box for holding, but Crawford made a few key saves to preserve a 1-0 Hawks lead going into intermission.
When the Blackhawks came back out for the second period, there was one notable absence, as Marian Hossa was ruled out for the remainder of the game due to an upper body injury. Despite that setback, the Hawks continued to press forward, and they kept racking up quality chances. Kane got the best of these with two consecutive shots from the slot, but both found iron as the crowd threw up their hands in disbelief.
After the Blackhawks killed off a couple of penalties in the middle stages of the period, it was Toews who got the team back on the board. On a great move that spun Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik around, Toews muscled his way past the blue line, and then made a nifty deke as he beat Fleury through the five-hole to give Chicago a 2-0 lead.
With ice conditions deteriorating thanks to the snow piling up (one Michal Handzus zone entry attempt was thwarted when a snow drift stopped the puck just before the blue line), the play slowed down again, but somehow the Hawks were still able to score. On a 3-on-1 rush, Kane feathered a pass across the ice to Versteeg, and he buried a shot from near the goal mouth to make it a 3-0 lead for the home side.
Michal Rozsival was sent to the box late in the second period, but the Hawks got the game to the horn without incurring any damage, and they held a 3-0 lead after the second period buzzer sounded.
As the third period got underway, the Blackhawks got several more good chances, but ultimately it was the Penguins that were able to get the game’s next goal. With James Neal streaking into the zone and pulling up in the face-off dot, Evgeni Malkin got to the crease, and Neal feathered a pass across intended for the sniper. Before it could get there, Seabrook ended up intercepting it, but in his attempt to push it wide of the net, he accidentally put it past Crawford and into the goal, making it a 3-1 game with just under 14 minutes remaining.
As the 10-minute mark (and the accompanying changing of ends because of wind conditions) approached, the Penguins did get a few more good chances, but the Hawks continued to push forward. Kane got yet another chance in the slot, but he was stopped by a nice save by Fleury to keep the game at 3-1 as the horn sounded to denote the middle of the period.
With about six minutes remaining in the game, Saad put a gorgeous pass across the middle of the ice to Bickell on a 2-on-1 rush, and Bickell was finally able to pound home the shot after several big whacks at it, giving the Blackhawks a comfortable 4-1 lead in the game.
In the last two minutes of the game, Toews tacked on another goal, bringing the final score to 5-1.