The Chicago Blackhawks saw their eight-game winning streak snapped on Saturday night, but Sunday was a different story as a third period goal from Brandon Saad lifted them to a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Patrick Sharp's power play tally in the second period tied the game up for Chicago, and Antti Raanta made 23 saves as the Hawks won for the 12th time in their last 14 games. Jiri Hudler scored the lone goal of the game for the Flames, and Jonas Hiller made 26 saves in a losing effort.
The game started out pretty slowly for both sides, with the Hawks preferring to use their defense to stifle the Calgary attack over getting things going on the other end of the ice. Hiller was forced to make a couple of saves when the Hawks finally got some transition play going, but both Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw were denied on quality opportunities.
Calgary did seem to gain some momentum from that sequence of saves, but despite getting a power play, they were unable to forge ahead. David Jones beat Raanta on a breakaway, but his shot rang off the post. Johnny Gaudreau also had a good scoring chance from in close, but Raanta kicked across the crease and kicked the puck away. Finally with about five minutes remaining in the period, Alex Monahan ripped a wrist shot toward the goal, but Raanta tracked it through traffic and made the save.
The Hawks did get one final chance late in the period, but Saad was denied by Hiller as the game remained scoreless through 20 minutes.
As the second period got started, the Flames ratcheted up the pressure on offense, and they were able to take the lead about four and a half minutes into the period. TJ Brodie made a brilliant play to pinch in through the middle of the ice, drawing the attention of several Hawks defenders. Hudler skated into the seam opened up by that pinch, and he ripped a shot just under the crossbar to give Calgary a 1-0 lead.
The Hawks bounced back nicely from that goal as Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell both had quality scoring chances, but it took a power play to tie things up. Off a face-off win by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane got the puck and eventually found the captain below the goal line. As Calgary’s defense over-rotated to compensate, Toews feathered a pass across to a pinching Sharp, who buried a one-timer past Hiller to tie things up at 1-1.
In the remaining minutes of the second period, both teams got some great scoring chances. Sharp nearly scored his second goal of the period from the point, but Hiller made a save and Shaw couldn’t untie himself from defenders as he dove for the rebound. Joe Colborne and Brodie both had good chances during a Flames power play a bit later in the period, but Raanta soaked up both shots and continued to display the quality rebound control he’d been showing throughout the game.
Finally, Kane and Richards nearly made a great goal later in the frame, but Kris Versteeg was unable to elevate the puck on the rush and Hiller made the save to keep the game tied through two periods.
When the third period got started, the Blackhawks dominated time of possession, and even a Johnny Oduya penalty wasn’t enough to stifle the momentum. Saad did a great job of killing off 30 seconds of the power play thanks to his strong puck presence, and Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa both did an excellent job of providing supporting on defense to help finish off the penalty kill.
With about seven minutes remaining in the game, the Hawks were able to get in behind the Calgary defense, and Saad made them pay. Niklas Hjalmarsson stripped the puck from Gaudreau at the defensive blue line, and he fired a transition pass up the ice to Toews. Saad drove in behind the defense, and when Toews found him the youngster didn’t miss as he scored on the breakaway to make it 2-1 Blackhawks.
The Hawks were unable to capitalize on a chance for an insurance goal when they got a power play with five minutes remaining, but the Flames couldn’t take advantage in the final moments of the contest. They did get a few chances, but the Hawks were able to shut things down as they secured the hard-fought victory.
The win vaults the Blackhawks back into first place in the Central Division, and they will put that status on the line Tuesday night when they take on the Minnesota Wild at the United Center.