The Vancouver Canucks scored just 16 seconds into the game, but the Chicago Blackhawks were able to generate four second period goals and grab a 5-2 victory on Wednesday night in the second game of their current six game road trip.
Brandon Saad picked up two tallies for the Blackhawks, and Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp all scored as the Hawks snapped their four game losing streak and helped Joel Quenneville move into third place on the all-time coaching wins list.
The game didn’t get off to the best of starts, as the Canucks grabbed the early lead. Ryan Kesler got the puck in the middle of the ice after two big hits by Chris Higgins and Alex Edler, and his backhanded shot attempt didn’t get on net. That’s because Higgins snatched it and then pushed the puck between Corey Crawford’s leg pads to put Vancouver up 1-0.
That early goal seemed to catch the Blackhawks’ attention for a good chunk of the first period, and the offense began to create some good opportunities. First it was Niklas Hjalmarsson firing a shot from the point that deflected off a Vancouver defender and got past Roberto Luongo, but it caromed harmlessly off the post, and the Canucks maintained the lead. Then it was Duncan Keith doing the honors, blasting a shot off of Luongo’s shoulder that stunned him. Finally, Hossa got a breakaway chance after skating around Edler, but he wasn’t able to get the shot to go as Luongo got his skate on the shot and pushed it wide.
The period ended with both teams getting some really good chances. First, Sharp’s shot from the point on a Hawks power play was tipped just over the cage. Then, Crawford had to be at his absolute best as Ryan Kesler racked up two great scoring chances on one-timers from the front of the net. Crawford was able to anticipate both shots perfectly, centering them up and keeping the Hawks within a goal. Crawford also made a great leg save on a Brad Richardson drive to the net, kicking his right pad out to seal off the far post and send the Hawks into the first intermission trailing 1-0.
Just like in the first period, the Blackhawks ended up conceding an early goal to the Canucks. After Kris Versteeg tried to stick-handle in the defensive zone, he had the puck lifted off of his stick. Eventually, former Blackhawk Ryan Stanton found Tom Sestito wide open in front of the net, and he fired a shot past Crawford to make it 2-0 Canucks less than three minutes into the second period.
About four minutes later, the floodgates opened for the Blackhawks. On a power play, Saad collected the puck along the boards. He fired a crisp cross-ice pass to Versteeg, who then feathered a saucer pass onto the stick of Hossa, who didn’t miss the cage and buried the easy shot to make it a 2-1 game.
Three minutes later, the Blackhawks struck again. This time, it was Saad doing the scoring, as he was able to get his stick blade on a shot from the point by Sheldon Brookbank to tie things up at 2-2. Just over a minute later, the Hawks grabbed the lead, as Brent Seabrook somehow got a pass over the sticks of both Kevin Bieksa and Luongo. That pass ended up on Toews’ stick tape, and he tapped the puck into the net to give the Hawks the lead.
Finally, the Blackhawks wrapped up the scoring in the period on a gorgeous goal by Sharp. Coming into the offensive zone, Sharp showed some quick hands with a couple of nice dekes, and then he rifled a wrist shot through traffic and past Luongo to give the Blackhawks a 4-2 lead with just under six minutes left in the period.
Luongo wasn’t done making saves just yet, however. Both Seabrook and Keith had tremendous scoring chances in the late stages of the second period, but both blasts from the point were handled by the Canucks’ goaltender. Brandon Pirri also tried to make magic happen on a 2-on-1 rush late in the frame, but his pass to Patrick Kane was stopped by Stanton, and the Canucks scampered to the dressing room suddenly trailing by two goals.
The third period got off to a bit of a sloppy start for the Canucks, as repeated stretch passes and quick shots didn’t yield any results. Finally though, they were able to get their offensive legs underneath them, but Crawford was more than up to the task. He made yet another outstanding save on Kesler, then Toews came to the rescue as he slid behind Crawford and stopped a follow-up shot from Jannik Hansen to preserve the Hawks’ lead.
Ultimately though, the Blackhawks’ offensive effort was just too much for Vancouver to handle. Sharp stole the puck in the neutral zone, but was stoned by a great save from Luongo. Just a few moments later, Versteeg had a golden scoring chance from in close, but his backhanded shot clanked off the crossbar.
Finally, with the Blackhawks on the power play and with the Vancouver net empty, Chicago was able to put it away. Hossa won a board battle in the corner of the Canucks’ zone, and his pass back toward the point found the stick of Saad. The youngster didn’t waste any time, firing home a shot into the empty cage to seal a huge victory for the Blackhawks.
The Hawks will now get a couple of days off, travelling to Las Vegas to unwind a bit. They will next hit the ice on Saturday night when they tangle with the always dangerous San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.