Having already secured a winning circus trip, the Chicago Blackhawks added to their points haul on Friday with a come from behind victory over the Dallas Stars. Patrick Sharp scored the game-tying goal in the third period, and Ben Smith fired home the shootout winner in the 11th round as the Hawks won a 2-1 decision.
Here are Friday’s Three Stars:
Third Star: Ben Smith
One of the more pleasant surprises for the Hawks this season, Smith has continued to shine on both ends of the ice for Chicago in his fourth line duties, and Friday night was no exception. He ended up with two shots on goal in just under 12 minutes of ice time, and even though he didn’t end up getting any points on offense, his defensive play more than made up for it.
Ultimately, his awesome shot in the shootout was the thing that got him a spot on this list. After watching a slew of teammates go before him, Smith wasted no time in grabbing the puck from the center ice dot and bringing it into the zone. Rather than trying to fool Kari Lehtonen with a series of elaborate dekes like just about every other Hawk had tried, Smith instead opted to catch Lehtonen off-guard with a quick snap shot, and the puck ended up hitting the twine so hard that it bounced out of the net just as fast as it had gone in.
The shot was a wicked reminder that Smith has some good offensive ability when its needed, and even though it won’t count in his official statistics, it was a huge moment for him as it gave the Hawks the victory.
Second Star: Corey Crawford
Over the past calendar year, Crawford has shown a remarkable tendency to bounce back if he makes a silly mistake, and he made a doozy of one on Friday night. On a play in the first period, Nick Leddy attempted a pass across the blue line, and when the puck was deflected back into the defensive zone, Crawford came out of the net to play it. He ended up tentatively jabbing at the puck, perhaps afraid that it would go into the restricted area behind the cage, and the Stars ultimately put the puck into the empty net on a goal by Rich Peverley.
After that play though, Crawford was absolutely outstanding. He forced Alex Chiasson to shoot the puck earlier than he wanted to on a penalty shot in the second period, and the shot rang off the post. Crawford also made nine saves in the shootout to keep his team in the game, and when Smith’s shot beat Lehtonen, Crawford was probably the most elated Blackhawk on the ice.
It was pretty clear throughout most of the game that Crawford looked well at ease after getting a night off on Wednesday against the Calgary Flames, and his movement and ice awareness were both at peak levels. It’s going to be very tempting for Joel Quenneville to start Crawford again on Saturday night against the Phoenix Coyotes after a performance like that, and it was great to see a rejuvenated Crawford in net for this one.
First Star: Patrick Sharp
Even though Sharp wasn’t quite able to score his 200th career goal with the Blackhawks on Friday night, number 199 ended up being the game-tying tally as the Hawks were able to once again come from behind after trailing going into the third period.
On that play, the Hawks established a good possession in the Stars’ zone, and the puck eventually found its way to Duncan Keith at the point. After taking a couple of strides, Keith fired a shot on net, and after getting to the front of the net, Sharp was able to get his stick blade on the shot, and the puck popped over Lehtonen’s shoulder and into the net to tie the game up at 1-1.
With his four shots on goal in the contest, Sharp was a big catalyst for the first line as they took advantage of some questionable matchups chosen by Stars coach Lindy Ruff in the game, and they were able to overcome the lack of scoring by the rest of the team as they picked up yet another road victory.