Despite taking a 2-0 lead, the Chicago Blackhawks weren’t able to hold on, dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night at the United Center.
Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane had the goals for the Blackhawks, but Antti Raanta’s 22 saves weren’t enough as the Hawks fell.
Like a record that keeps playing the same song over and over again, the Blackhawks had the lion’s share of the chances early on in the game. Perhaps taking advantage of a tired Canucks team that arrived in Chicago at 1:30am on Friday, all four lines skated circles around the Vancouver skaters, and the Hawks had several big chances with Patrick Sharp getting the best ones in close to the net.
That aggressive approach by the Hawks ended up paying off as they got on the board early. After Kane made an excellent play along the boards to grab a puck off the stick of Michal Handzus, and when he circled around the top of the offensive zone, he fired a shot towards the net. Versteeg happened to be putting a screen on Lack in front of the crease, and it was his stick that deflected the puck in to give the Blackhawks the 1-0 lead.
The Blackhawks continued their aggressive play as the period wore on, with Brandon Bollig setting up a tremendous scoring chance after stealing the puck along the boards. Ben Smith skated towards the net, and Bollig flipped a backhanded pass to him, but Smith couldn’t put it home and the score remained 1-0. Nick Leddy also had a great play, driving into the offensive zone and then making a great move to get to the net, but he was dragged down and the Hawks went to the power play.
They weren’t able to convert on that chance, but they immediately surrendered a power play right back to the Canucks. After some great plays by Brent Seabrook and Michal Handzus, the Hawks were able to get the game to the first intermission without surrendering a goal.
With the flip of a switch, the Canucks came out with a head of steam in the second period. They wrapped up their power play with a couple of incredible chances against Raanta, but the Blackhawks’ goaltender was able to make several clutch saves as he scrambled all over the crease, and the game remained 1-0.
After another successful kill later in the period, the Blackhawks got on the scoreboard again. This time, it was Kane who ended up with the goal, and he’s the one that set the whole play up. He made a really nice pass to Michal Rozsival, whose shot from the point ended up caroming off of traffic in front, but Kane was there to grab the rebound and somehow shoot it off of Brad Richardson and into the Vancouver net to make it 2-0 Blackhawks.
Just a short time later though, the Canucks finally got on the board. With Seabrook providing an unintentional screen on the rush, Zack Kassian unleashed a hellacious snap shot, and the puck barely grazed off of Seabrook’s shin pad before hitting the inside of the post and finding its way into the net.
Several clutch defensive plays by both teams as the second period ended and the third period began defined the middle stages of the hockey game. Seabrook once again made his presence on the penalty kill known, as he pushed Mike Santorelli into the boards, stole the puck, and flipped it up the boards for the clear. The Canucks responded with a couple of great shot blocks on a Hawks’ power play, and once against the Chicago power play came up empty in a clutch situation.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, their defensive prowess ended up not being enough as the Canucks scored just after the halfway point of the third period. A Kevin Bieksa shot hit several players in front of the net, and Daniel Sedin managed to get a skate on the puck before it could get to the corner. Sedin then kicked the puck to his skate, and while falling down, he flipped a shot off of Raanta’s arm and into the net to tie things up at 2-2 with nine minutes left in the game.
Both teams traded a couple of quality chances as regulation time wound down, but few were better than the play Andrew Shaw made to get to the front of the net on a rush. He ended up faking out a Vancouver defender, dove in behind him, and got to the net, but Lack was able to stifle the scoring attempt with an aggressive play at the top of the crease to keep the game tied at 2-2.
Daniel Sedin and Versteeg each traded chances in the game’s closing moments, with Sedin’s backhand shot getting stopped by Raanta and Versteeg’s one-timer snap shot being stopped by Lack. Shaw also grabbed a puck and fired a shot just high of the net, but it was a 3-on-1 Canucks rush with only 15 seconds left that was the most heart-wrenching moment of the sequence. Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Chris Tanev put the shot just wide, and the game ended up going to overtime.
The overtime frame featured a slew of great scoring chances as both teams seemed to pick up the tempo in the 4-on-4 situation. Raanta made back-to-back clutch saves in net, but Chris Higgins responded by breaking up a 2-on-1 rush by Marian Hossa and Kane with an aggressive backcheck. Santorelli then made a great move of his own, deking around Seabrook but then had to delay his deke because of a pokecheck by Raanta, and he put the puck into the side of the net to keep it tied up.
In the shootout, Lack made back-to-back saves on Kane and Toews, and Santorelli converted his chance to put the Canucks up 1-0. Raanta did stop Daniel Sedin to keep the Blackhawks alive in the shootout, and Patrick Sharp did his part to extend the game as well, beating Lack to tie the shootout at 1-1. Henrik Sedin was also stopped by Raanta, and the shootout went to extra shooters.
Hossa’s slap shot attempt ended up ringing off the left post, but Raanta once again came up in a big way, sliding to his right to stop a deke by Kassian to keep things going. Brandon Saad was pokechecked by Lack on his attempt, but once again it was Raanta coming up big, stopping Yannick Weber’s shot to end the fifth round with the shootout still tied at 1-1.
Smith was also denied by Lack on a wrist shot attempt to start off the sixth round, and David Booth was stoned by Raanta as he made yet another clutch save. Versteeg missed the net on his attempt, and then Zac Dalpe was stopped by Raanta who made a great glove save to extend the shootout. Michal Handzus got stopped with a leg pad save by Lack in the eighth round, and Ryan Kesler ended up finally beating Raanta, beating him glove side and the Hawks dropped a 3-2 decision in the process.
The Blackhawks will have the weekend off before they take on the New Jersey Devils on Monday night at the United Center, the team’s last game before the three-day Christmas break.