Along the Boards: Blackhawks rally to beat the Avalanche 5–3

  

After a major win against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, the Blackhawks paid a visit to the Avalanche in Denver, playing for the second time in four days and the final time for the remainder of the season.

The first period looked similar to what most fans likely anticipated against the Avalanche. The Avs were clearly the better team out of the gate in the opening frame. The home team dominated all over the ice, and made the Hawks look like the inferior team.

Six minutes into the game, the Avs took advantage of a change at the tail end of their own power play. Ryan Graves jumped onto the ice and found the puck on his stick. He was able to capitalize on the feed and give the Avs a 1–0 lead. 

The puck was smoked by Graves as he came off the bench.

Aside from the goal, there was no further damage done and the Hawks were still in the game, despite being badly outplayed. However, the second period began in a much different fashion. At the 21-second mark of the period, Jonathan Toews perfectly read a pass by the Avalanche defenders and caused a turnover in their zone. Patrick Kane found the puck and returned the puck to the captain to finish off the bid and tie the game.

Unfortunately, the fun wouldn’t last too long. After a Robin Lehner save, Matt Calvert saw the puck laying behind Lehner in the crease, and poked the puck into the back of the net. Although Lehner argued he had the puck, the replay showed that the puck was indeed loose. 

Despite the goal, the Blackhawks were by far the better team in the second period. They were hitting, flying around, and getting plenty of shots on net. It was easily one of their better periods of hockey all season long. 

Notable hits included Duncan Keith’s ruthless hip check on Joonas Donskoi and Dennis Gilbert’s flattening of Gabriel Landeskog. Gilbert’s hit resulted in a retaliation hit later and ultimately a scrap for the young defenseman. 

After a great period from the Blackhawks, Matt Calvert once again found a lucky bounce off of Robin Lehner. This time, it was Lehner’s own pads that Calvert took advantage of. After an excellent save by Lehner, he found himself outside of the paint with his pads facing slightly toward the net. Calvert hit his pads perfectly and banked the shot in off of Lehner.

The Blackhawks were stuck down two going into the third after one of their best periods of hockey. 

As the third period ran on, the Blackhawks were struggling with the altitude. Although still holding their own, the ice tipped again toward the Avalanche. Despite the speed of the Avalanche, the Blackhawks were the first time to capitalize in the final frame.

After the Blackhawks entered the zone, Toews dished the puck to Kane at the blue line. Kane skated across the ice, into the left slot and ripped a shot past Philipp Grubauer to cut the Avs’ lead to just one. 

It was an excellent play by Erik Gustafsson to crash the net and possibly screen the goalie on the shot. 

The next shift provided a lot of excitement as well. A series of passes from Adam Boqvist and Gustafsson set up Kirby Dach for his sixth goal of the season. Dach used his long reach to corral a tough pass and somehow get a good enough shot on net to beat Grubauer. The passing was a beautiful tic-tac-toe and wild finish from the rookie.

After the tying goal, the Blackhawks went to the power play as well. The momentum in the game completely flipped in Chicago’s favor, and there was no denying that the Hawks came to play in the final period. 

In continuing fashion, the Blackhawks looked to put this game away. With just over three minutes remaining, Dennis Gilbert kept a puck in the zone that nearly left and found Toews down low. Toews’ initial shot missed, but he was able to get the puck back and circle behind the Colorado net. As he did, he missed Kane crashing the net, but found Dominik Kubalik in the slot and the rookie scored his tenth goal of the season to give the visitors the lead. 

The Avs would not go away, pulling the goalie with well over two minutes remaining. Credit the Blackhawks however; they were able to fight off the push, and Connor Murphy, from his own end line, buried the empty net goal to seal the win in Denver. 

Around the Boards

Duncan Keith played a really nice game for the Blackhawks. Sure he’s not the old self that he used to be, but he was still the Blackhawks best defenseman for most of the night. From the excellent defensive play on Nathan MacKinnon early in the game, to the monster hip check in the second period, Duncan Keith was noticeable and certainly playing pissed off. An excellent night from the vet and it’s refreshing seeing Keith lead by example after his comments the last time these two teams played. 

It was nice to see Dach finally get on the board after 16 games without a goal. If nothing else, he found a spark of confidence especially with the goal that he scored on. Assistant coach Tomas Mitell said he thought Dach was playing one of his best games of the season. It’s hard not to agree with Mitell: Dach looked much more confident in this game than he had in the last ten games before this one. He was making plays, aggressive in front of the net, and very noticeable, unlike recent games. A great game for the kid and a huge win for the Hawks.

Wow, what a game. After dominating the second period, the Blackhawks were still down two goals entering the third frame. Going into the third period, per Charlie Roumeliotis, the Avalanche were undefeated when leading after two periods this season and the Blackhawks were winless when down after two periods. Well, the Blackhawks flipped the script on that stat and took this game by the horns, mounting the comeback of the season for this team. Quick goals to get the tie certainly helped, but the Blackhawks never let their foot off the gas and were able to steal a big game in Colorado against the Avs. A big kudos to the Blackhawks for not giving up in this one, because they easily could have after being down two goals going into the third period.

The Blackhawks return to the United Center on Monday to play the lowly New Jersey Devils before the Christmas break. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CST.

Center Ice Forums Around the Boards: Blackhawks rally to beat the Avalanche 5–3

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