Despite blowing a 2-0 lead, the Chicago Blackhawks were able to secure their first road win against the Carolina Hurricanes since 1998 by winning a 3-2 decision in a shootout on Tuesday night.
Patrick Sharp scored his first goal of the season for the Hawks, and also added the only tally in the shootout. Marian Hossa had the other goal for the Hawks as they pushed their record to 4-1-1 on the season.
Without further adieu, here are our Three Stars of the Game:
Third Star: Brandon Saad
Saad has been a breath of fresh air for the Blackhawks in the early going this season, and despite only being credited with one assist on the game Tuesday night, it may have been his best performance of the young campaign.
Throughout the game, Saad and his linemates Joakim Nordstrom and Andrew Shaw were all over the ice, forechecking aggressively in the offensive zone and really getting after the Hurricanes on the backcheck in the neutral zone. They even had some excellent netfront presence as well, really knocking Carolina goaltender Cam Ward off of his game in the early stages of the game, and they really set the tone for the rest of the team in what was a tremendous first period effort.
Where Saad really excelled in this game though was in his instinctual play when he had the puck under duress. Instead of just trying to move the puck blindly up the boards or pushing it towards the middle of the ice, Saad took every opportunity he was given to feed passes to his teammates, and he showed that most prominently on his pass to Hossa on his first period goal.
Second Star: Corey Crawford
If one didn’t know any better in watching the Hawks’ last few games, it would seem that Crawford has been trying to prove to the world that he was worth the six-year contract he signed in the offseason.
Crawford’s timing has been impeccable, with his lateral movement showing the same effectiveness and precision that it did during his first really good stint of play during the 2010-11 season. He is centering pucks up perfectly at nearly every turn, and outside of a couple of miscues while playing the puck outside of the crease, he has shown great poise under duress.
He was at his best during the third period of the game on the sequence that ultimately led to the tying goal by the Hurricanes. On the possession by Carolina, they got off several high quality shot attempts, and Crawford was able to turn them all away. It was only after careless turnover by Joakim Nordstrom and a bad defensive play by Michal Rozsival that Crawford ended up being beaten, and the frustration he showed after giving up the goal was definitely justified.
Obviously, the Hawks don’t want Crawford to be having to dive all over the ice after shots, and would prefer to keep him as unoccupied as possible in the crease. Even still, it’s great to see Crawford not playing scared because of a fear of not living up to his contract, and if he continues to show this fearlessness, then he should continue to win over Hawks fans skeptical over whether or not the netminder earned that coin.
First Star: Patrick Sharp
Earlier on Tuesday, we wrote about how Sharp’s tenacity in the early going this season was a good sign that he would eventually break out of his scoring slump, and that’s exactly what he did, notching his first goal of the season after a brilliant pass by Michal Handzus sprung Sharp on a breakaway in the first period.
Sharp has had a ton of breakaway opportunities in the early going, and even though he was unsuccessful on those, his patience on this particular scoring chance was great. On a pass like the one Handzus floated in to Sharp, the puck tends to bounce and be very difficult to settle, but it didn’t seem like Sharp missed a beat on the play, corralling the rolling puck and seemingly using it to his advantage in flipping a shot over Ward’s glove to give the Hawks an early lead.
Obviously this was a big goal for Sharp to get him off the skid he had been on this season, but after the game, Sharp’s focus was on other things. He told the media that he was saving the stick and the puck that he used in scoring the only shootout goal of the contest, and giving them to his newborn daughter Sadie when she gets older as a memento of the first game he played after her birth. Sharp also tweeted this after the victory:
Thanks, Sadie..... — Patrick Sharp (@10PSharp) October 16, 2013
Sharp also scored the game-winning goal against the New York Islanders in December 2011 after the birth of his first daughter Madelyn.