The location may have been different, but the end result was the same, as the Chicago Blackhawks were unable to avenge their defeat last week on the road against the St. Louis Blues, dropping a 3-2 shootout decision at the United Center on Thursday night.
Without further adieu, here are Thursday’s Three Stars:
Third Star: Brandon Pirri
Pirri scored his first career NHL goal and racked up two shots in only 9:34 of ice time in the game, but it was the way that he scored the goal that ensured him a spot on this list.
In the first period, the Hawks got off to a sizzling start offensively, peppering Jaroslav Halak with shot after shot and really getting hard after the puck. One of the big reasons for that was the aggressive play of the team’s third line, with Pirri centering Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad. Pirri was a late comer on the play that he scored on, but it was the same aggressiveness that he displayed while on the ice with the other two youngsters that enabled him to score.
Pirri initially went to the front of the net when he came on after a line change, and when the puck was pushed out to the boards, Pirri could have camped out in front and waited for something to happen. Instead, he skated behind the net to shake any trailing defenders, and eventually settled into the slot and was wide open.
While this was going on, Marian Hossa ended up stealing the puck along the boards, and seeing Pirri skate into a wide open spot, he fed a perfect pass that Pirri one-timed into the net for the goal and the 1-0 Hawks lead.
A lot of the attention for the play will be lavished on Hossa for his excellent defensive work and subsequent pass, and rightfully so, but Pirri’s aggressiveness and ability to move without the puck were also worthy of note on that play, and he really did earn his goal.
Second Star: Corey Crawford
With each passing game, Crawford is alleviating more doubts as to whether or not he can live up to the $36 million contract that the Blackhawks gave him during the offseason, and Thursday’s tilt was no exception.
Yes, Crawford did get faked out of his pads during the shootout by an excellent move by TJ Oshie, but his play during regulation and the overtime more than made up for that momentary failure. He once again was moving laterally with precision, and despite getting constantly bombarded with shots and Blues offensive players (including one notable run-in with Jaden Schwartz that sent Crawford sprawling to the ice), he maintained his composure and helped keep the Hawks in the game despite their lackluster offensive attack through much of the game.
Crawford is going to be getting the vast majority of the starts for the Hawks this season, and even though he will likely give way to Nikolai Khabibulin at some point during the team’s upcoming swing through Florida, it’s still good to see that the increased workload he’ll be experiencing this season doesn’t seem to be putting a damper on his abilities.
First Star: Marian Hossa
On a night that the Blackhawks showed so little punch that Joel Quenneville characterized their effort as “awful,” Marian Hossa was definitely a rare bright spot.
Hossa was aggressive on both sides of the ice, racking up a goal and assist and five shots on goal on offense, and picking up three takeaways and a hit on the defensive side of the puck. His aggressive backchecking helped the Hawks to score their first goal, and it was his nose for open ice that led to the team’s second goal.
On a bad line change by the Blues, Hossa saw the play developing and made a break for the offensive zone. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson found Hossa with an excellent stretch pass, and the veteran winger ended up bearing down on Halak on a 2-on-0 breakaway with Patrick Sharp alongside. Hossa clearly had no interest in dishing the puck off, because he barely even gave Sharp a second glance before firing a shot past Halak to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead.
Hossa had another breakway earlier in the period that was stopped by Halak, so it was pretty clear on the second one that he was on a mission to right earlier wrongs. He did just that, and even if it was only for a moment, gave the crowd at the UC a reason to cheer.