It took some late heroics on the part of Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, but the Chicago Blackhawks managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat as they secured a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens in their regular season home finale.
Corey Crawford made 28 saves in the winning effort, and Jeremy Morin, Hossa, and Sharp picked up goals for the Hawks. Peter Budaj was the tough luck loser for the Canadiens, stopping 25 shots and keeping his team ahead until the game’s final minute.
The game began with the kind of wide open pace that the ultra-athletic Blackhawks tend to enjoy, but it was actually the Canadiens that seemed more at home. Thomas Vanek had the best chance of the early period, but he wasn’t the guy who actually put the puck nearest the net. Duncan Keith tried to collect the puck and very nearly put it into the cage, but he was able to stop himself before he made a significant gaffe, and the game remained scoreless.
A few minutes later, Brandon Saad got the Hawks’ first shot of the game, and he nearly netted it, with Budaj barely getting his blocker up to knock the shot into the corner. The Canadiens responded with a good chance of their own a few minutes later, with Tomas Plekanec getting a great rebound off of a Sean Gallagher shot, but Crawford stuffed him with ease.
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Brandon Bollig got in on the action just after the halfway mark of the period, but his semi-breakaway was stopped by Budaj. Marcus Kruger snagged the rebound between the face-off dots, and his shot was ripped towards the net. Budaj once again stood tall, smothering the shot with ease and keeping the Hawks off the board in the process.
The Blackhawks got a late power play when Danny Briere was sent off for hooking, but despite two shots on goal, they weren’t able to get on the board. Mike Weaver picked up three critical shot blocks for the Canadiens in the sequence, and he was instrumental in keeping the game scoreless as the first intermission horn sounded.
As the second period got underway, the Blackhawks seemed to slow down on the offensive side of things, and they began to turn the puck over with startling frequency. The Hawks ended up losing the puck in the offensive zone, and with Brent Seabrook pinched in from the blue line, Plekanec got in behind the defense for a breakaway. Crawford was able to make the stop, keeping the game tied about six minutes into the frame.
About a minute later, Niklas Hjalmarsson started to break out of the defensive zone, but he had the puck stripped by Brian Gionta. Briere got the puck in between the face-off dots off a pass from Gionta, but he wasn’t able to put the shot home.
Despite those early chances, the Canadiens weren’t able to gain the lead, and that was largely because of the play of Crawford. He made several key saves as the period went on, and even though his team was outshot by a 10-6 margin in the second period, he was able to keep the game scoreless as the frame came to an end.
As the third period got underway, the Blackhawks got a great chance thanks to a Joakim Nordstrom hit that jarred the puck loose behind the net. Kruger grabbed the loose puck and went right to the front of the net, but Budaj was up to the task and smothered the shot. The Hawks’ offense kept churning after that play, but despite a strong shift from the third line, they couldn’t take the lead after a long period of dormancy.
The Hawks got another good chance about six minutes into the period when Bollig and Nordstrom came down the ice on a 2-on-1. With the young Swedish forward covered, Bollig opted to take a shot on the rush, but it skipped just wide of the net to keep the contest scoreless.
That missed opportunity came back to haunt the Hawks, as the Canadiens took the lead a few minutes later. After Rene Bourque found Josh Gorges with a pass, the ensuing shot bounced off of traffic and kicked to the far side of the net. Dale Weise was there waiting after charging toward the crease, and he potted the easy goal to give Montreal a 1-0 lead.
The Blackhawks weren’t willing to go down without a fight however, and just three minutes later, they tied things up. After Sheldon Brookbank stopped a clearing attempt by the Canadiens at the blue line, he forced a pass to Morin. The Hawks’ red-hot sniper cut back to the middle of the ice and unleashed a sizzling wrist shot that beat Budaj to the far post, and in the blink of an eye the game was tied at 1-1.
Unfortunately for Chicago, that momentum was short-lived, as just 22 seconds later the Canadiens regained the lead. After a won face-off, the puck eventually worked its way to Vanek, who played catch with Francis Bouillon at the point. Eventually, the defenseman blasted a slapshot through traffic, and Crawford couldn’t quite stop it as it tickled the twine and put the Habs in front by a 2-1 margin.
The Hawks responded once again to the challenge, picking up a couple of quick scoring chances. First it was Sharp firing in a shot from near the point, but Budaj stopped it with ease. Then Michal Handzus cut in toward the net and forced Budaj to make an up close save, and then Duncan Keith’s shot was deflected just wide by traffic in front.
The Canadiens did come back down the ice after that sequence to get a scoring chance of their own, but Crawford was once again up to the task. The puck found its way to a wide open Max Pacioretty, and the American sniper fired a high wrist shot toward the net. Crawford made one of his patented glove saves as he went into his butterfly stance on the ice, and the game remained a one-goal affair.
When Bouillon was sent to the box with a holding minor, the Hawks got a power play with less than four minutes remaining in the game. As has been the case frequently in recent games, they weren’t able to get any quality chances on the man-advantage, with a Leddy shot from the point being stopped by Budaj on the best opportunity. Andrew Shaw barely missed the puck as he skated by the front of the net, but the Canadiens were ultimately able to dodge the bullet and keep their narrow lead.
With Crawford pulled from the net, the Hawks went to work with six attackers with under a minute left. Handzus got the puck along the back boards, and he slid it behind the net to Sharp. The winger found Hossa camped out just in front of the blue paint, and with a quick flick of the wrists, Hossa potted his 29th goal of the season and tied things up with less than 48 seconds to go.
Crawford did have to make one more insane save in the closing seconds of the game, when Pacioretty got the puck on a cross-ice pass in the offensive zone. The forward snapped off a quick shot, but Crawford dove across the crease and smothered the shot to keep the game tied up at 2-2.
As the overtime period started, the Canadiens got a nice shot from Plakenec from near the boards, but Crawford kicked it aside. The Hawks quickly made their way down the ice, and Sharp got the puck near the middle of the ice. He forced in a shot toward Budaj, but when the goaltender tried to make a kick save, he didn’t get enough of the puck, and it bounced into the net to give the Blackhawks their first overtime victory of the season.
With four straight victories in their pocket, the Hawks will head out on the road to finish up the regular season, with their first stop coming in Washington DC on Friday when they battle the Capitals at Verizon Center.