The Chicago Blackhawks attempted 92 shots on goal and got 54 of them on target, but Semyon Varlamov stopped them all as the Colorado Avalanche picked up a 2-0 victory on Tuesday night.
Nathan MacKinnon and Max Talbot each scored less than two minutes into the game, and Varlamov did the rest as the Avalanche won for the first time in three attempts against the Blackhawks this season.
The crowd at the United Center had barely had the opportunity to settle into their seats before the Avalanche got on the board. John Mitchell got the play started by faking out Johnny Oduya so badly that the defenseman skidded out of the way, and even though Corey Crawford made the initial save, Nathan MacKinnon was there to put away the rebound and give Colorado a 1-0 lead.
Less than 30 seconds later, the Avalanche scored again. Oduya once again was the big offender on the play, missing on his pokecheck attempt and allowing MacKinnon to drive past him toward the net. Eventually the puck found its way onto Max Talbot’s stick, and the forward didn’t miss as his shot trickled into the net to extend the Avalanche lead to two goals.
The Blackhawks finally seemed to get their act together after those goals, but despite firing 17 shots on net over the course of the first period, they weren’t able to get one home. Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell each had good shots on rebounds, and then Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp each came up with opportunities on a late power play, but Varlamov was up to the task as he kept Colorado in front by two goals after the first period of play.
The Blackhawks continued their rip-roaring offensive attack as the second period got underway, but they still couldn’t convert on any of their chances. A second power play opportunity fell by the wayside as Shaw deflected a shot just wide, and then Bickell missed on the best shot opportunity of all as his backhanded shot off a Brad Richards rebound slid just outside the cage, drawing a groan from the crowd.
As the period wore on, the Blackhawks continued to bombard Varlamov with shots, but despite some close calls they couldn’t convert. Ben Smith had a good chance in front but his deflection of a Bickell shot sailed just wide of the post, and Kane opened up a 4-on-4 sequence with a wicked wrist shot, but Varlamov swallowed it up as the Avalanche maintained their lead after two periods.
The third period got started with yet another Hawks chance, as Brandon Saad rang a shot off the right post less than a minute in, and then Ryan O’Reilly returned the favor as he drew iron at the other end. Richards and Kane continued to push the tempo up ice for the Blackhawks, but neither could score as Colorado stayed in front.
About halfway through the period, the Blackhawks went short-handed for four minutes as Toews was sent to the box for a slashing penalty, but the Hawks were able to kill it off with a minimum of trouble.
Over the final minutes of the game, the Blackhawks kept generating chances, but none would go. Niklas Hjalmarsson had a big shot from the face-off dot that Varlamov saved, and Shaw and Kane each missed on chances to get the rebound goal. Saad and Shaw continued the onslaught late, but the Hawks couldn’t score as Colorado picked up the hard-fought game.
The Blackhawks will try to reverse their fortunes on Thursday night when they head up to Minnesota to take on the Wild.