The Chicago Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead early in the second period, but the Washington Capitals stormed back with three goals in the later stages of that frame to nail down a 3-2 victory on Friday night at the United Center.
Duncan Keith and Brandon Saad scored goals for the Blackhawks, but it wasn’t enough as Braden Holtby made 38 saves to lead the Capitals to victory. The loss on home ice was the third straight defeat at the United Center for the Blackhawks.
As the game got underway, the Blackhawks established a speedy and effective offensive attack, and all the Capitals could do was to throw their weight around and use their physicality to keep the game close. Bryan Bickell was one of the Hawks most active in the offensive zone, tipping in a shot on goal that forced Holtby to make an athletic save, and Jonathan Toews had a good scoring chance turned away to keep the game scoreless.
Late in that first period, the persistent pressure by the Blackhawks finally paid off, and they were rewarded with a 2-on-1 rush down the ice. Marian Hossa jumped out with the puck, and as soon as he crossed the blue line in the offensive zone, he pushed a pass across the ice to a streaking Saad. Rather than waiting to collect the puck, Saad ripped a one-timer that Holtby had no chance of stopping, and with less than three minutes to go in the frame the Hawks took a 1-0 lead.
As the period came to an end, Alex Ovechkin was sent to the penalty box after drilling Niklas Hjalmarsson with a high hit, and when the power play carried over to the beginning of the second period, the Blackhawks made the Capitals’ captain pay. Brad Richards whistled in a shot that hit traffic in front of the net, but Keith was in the right place at the right time as he collected the rebound and blew a shot past Holtby to put Chicago in front by a 2-0 score.
The Blackhawks got another power play shortly after the goal, but on this one they were unable to get anything going. The Capitals’ aggression level went through the roof in those two minutes, and Corey Crawford was tested in a big way for the first time on the evening.
Both teams traded plenty of scoring chances in the middle stages of the period, with Kris Versteeg’s backhand shot forcing Holtby to make a save and Nate Schmidt getting robbed at the other end by a slick glove save from Crawford. With five minutes remaining, the Capitals drew blood as Andrew Burakovsky received a pass from Marcus Johansson and flipped a shot just below the crossbar to cut the Hawks’ lead to 2-1.
With 46 seconds left in the period, the Capitals stunned the United Center crowd by tying the game up. Johansson played a key role again for Washington, as he scooped up a loose puck in the face-off circle and fired it toward the net. Trying to clear the puck away, Brent Seabrook accidentally deflected it into the goal, and the game was tied at 2-2 as a result.
Stunningly, the Capitals managed to take the lead with just four seconds remaining in the period. With the Blackhawks scrambling in their defensive zone, the Capitals moved the puck around with impunity, and Matt Niskanen’s shot was deflected in by Joel Ward to put Washington up 3-2 as the period came to an end.
The third period started out with a bit of a scare for the Blackhawks as Saad took a knee-on-knee hit from Troy Brouwer, but the youngster was able to stay in the game and played a big part in the Hawks’ offensive push. At one point Chicago was up 8-2 in shots on goal, but Holtby continued his hot play in net to keep the Capitals in front. Ben Smith had the best opportunity of all near the midway point of the frame, but his quick shot off a rebound was somehow stopped by Holtby’s left leg.
In the dying moments of the game, the Hawks kept firing away, but to no avail. Versteeg was robbed again on a one-timer when Holtby kicked across the crease and made the save, and a late Richards shot from the point was knocked over the top of the net by the goaltender to give Washington a crucial win.
The Blackhawks will look to end their three game home losing streak on Sunday night when they welcome the San Jose Sharks to the United Center.