Phillip Danault had never scored an NHL goal since coming up to the Chicago Blackhawks, but he picked a perfect time to do it as he scored with just five minutes left in regulation to help the Hawks beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Friday night.
Niklas Hjalmarsson scored his second goal of the season for the Blackhawks in the victory, and Corey Crawford stopped 27 shots as the Hawks won their sixth consecutive game. Jonathan Toews added an empty-netter late to seal the victory for Chicago.
Although Chicago only scored three goals, it wasn’t for a lack of trying, as they racked up 45 shots against Chad Johnson. Throughout the contest they were stymied by the goaltender, but Danault’s shot proved to be the difference in a key victory for Chicago.
The game got off to a hectic start for both teams as each side racked up shots, but it was Chicago that was finally able to break the dam near the end of the frame. On a contested entry, Jonathan Toews shoveled the puck across the ice to Erik Gustafsson, who immediately tapped a pass into the middle of the ice. Hjalmarsson pinched in from the point to receive it, and as he cruised through the slot he fired a shot past Johnson to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.
The Blackhawks’ lead lasted through an intense second period and through a large chunk of the third, but Ryan O’Reilly knotted things up with less than nine minutes to go in regulation. Jamie McGinn won a puck battle in the corner of the ice to get free, and as he skated behind the net he feathered a pass to the front, where O’Reilly ripped a one-timer past Crawford to tie things up at 1-1.
Just three and a half minutes later, the Blackhawks answered. Duncan Keith ended up making a big play in the neutral zone as he received a pass from Hjalmarsson and quickly shoveled it up the ice to Danault, and he did the rest. The center skated across the blue line with speed, and his shot ended up going right over Johnson’s blocker to put Chicago ahead 2-1 with less than five minutes to go in the contest.
The Sabres pulled Johnson late in regulation, but it proved to be a fruitless decision as the Blackhawks scored an empty net goal. After a save by Crawford, Keith fired a quick pass up the boards and out of the zone, and Jonathan Toews tapped home the empty netter to give Chicago the victory.
The Blackhawks will put their winning streak on the line on Sunday evening when they welcome the Colorado Avalanche to the United Center. Puck drop is slotted for 6 p.m. as the Blackhawks continue a four game homestand.