The Montreal Canadiens hadn’t lost a game this season when leading after two periods, but a Brandon Saad goal with just 27 seconds left in regulation ended that streak as the Chicago Blackhawks picked up a 4-3 victory at the United Center on Friday night.
Michal Rozsival, Ben Smith, and Jonathan Toews scored goals for the Blackhawks, and Antti Raanta made 38 saves as the Hawks won their fifth consecutive game and swept the season series against Montreal. Brendan Gallagher, PK Subban, and Sergei Gonchar scored goals for the Canadiens.
The Blackhawks got off to a great start offensively in the game, and just two minutes into the game they took an early lead. Andrew Shaw got the play started by moving the puck into the offensive zone, and he kicked a pass over to the boards. Bryan Bickell got it there, and when the Montreal defense over-rotated to compensate, Bickell feathered a pass across the zone to a pinching Rozsival. The defenseman showed some impressive hands by wristing a shot past Carey Price, and in the blink of an eye the Hawks were up 1-0.
Chicago’s offense continued to generate scoring chances as the period wore on, with Marian Hossa getting the best opportunity on a one-timer that Price stopped. The Canadiens did have some chances of their own, with Brandon Prust getting a breakaway chance, but Raanta was there to make the stop to keep Chicago in front.
After the Blackhawks killed off a Canadiens power play late in the first period, some puck luck and aggressive offensive pressure resulted in another Chicago goal. The fourth line generated the pressure this time, with Joakim Nordstrom and Marcus Kruger both taking chops at the puck near the goal crease. Eventually it was Smith that got the clean shot off, and he fired it past Price to put the Hawks up by a 2-0 margin with about two minutes remaining in the period.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, the Canadiens didn’t stay down, and they scored before the end of the first period. Alex Galchenyuk made a great pass into the slot, and Gallagher snared it and fired it past Raanta to make it a 2-1 game.
Early in the second period, the Blackhawks got a 5-on-3 power play thanks to several Montreal penalties, but they couldn’t convert on a slew of chances. Kris Versteeg whiffed on a great chance off a feed from Patrick Kane, and then Duncan Keith was robbed by a stick save by Price. Kane finished off the possession with an excellent chance, but Price made the stop to keep the Montreal deficit at one goal.
With about 12 minutes to go in the period, the Blackhawks’ lack of finish on that power play came back to haunt them as Montreal tied the game. Gallagher made a nifty pass over to the boards, where Gonchar blasted in a shot that evaded Raanta and made it a 2-2 game.
Both sides fought hard to gain the upper hand in the ensuing 10 minutes, and the Canadiens ended up gaining it because of a questionable call against Kane. Shortly after the power play started, Subban got the puck and the blue line and ripped a slap shot over Raanta’s glove to make it a 3-2 lead for the visitors.
The Blackhawks got two power play opportunities early on in the third period, and after squandering the first one they made quick work of the second one to tie things up. Keith wired in a shot toward the net that got tangled up in Brad Richards’ skates, and he muscled a shot through traffic and into the blue paint. Just before the puck crossed the goal line, Toews got a stick on it and pushed it over to tie things up at 3-3 with about 16 minutes remaining in the game.
As the third period wore on, the Blackhawks continued to generate scoring chances, but they couldn’t break the deadlock. Toews had another good chance about halfway through the period, but Price denied him. Keith and Versteeg also got chances with about six minutes remaining, but Price made two really good saves to keep the game tied.
It looked as though the game was going to go to overtime, but Saad had other ideas. After Raanta had made a save on Dale Weise at one end, the Hawks quickly pushed up the ice, and after Kane had a shot blocked in front of the net, and Andrei Markov attempted to clear the puck. It ended up right on Saad’s stick, and he snuck a shot past Price to put Chicago up by a 4-3 margin.
The Canadiens did get one more chance late in the game, but Gallagher was stopped by Raanta and the Hawks left the ice with their fifth consecutive win.
They’ll put that winning streak on the line again on Saturday night when they take on the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.