Fleury comes up aces in return to Vegas as Chicago wins 2–1

  

After an embarrassing loss 6–4 to the Arizona Coyotes (7–22–3) two nights ago, captain Jonathan Toews held a players-only closed-door meeting to right the ship that has seen the Chicago Blackhawks winless in their last six contests. With a 11–18–5 record, Chicago needed a bounce back effort with a consistent effort on Saturday in Nevada.

Saturday’s affair with the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights (23–13–1) provided Knights’ fans with the return of their Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender and franchise icon Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury returned to the Vegas ice with a special video presentation before the game. Fleury mentioned to the press that he felt goose bumps coming back to Vegas.

Vegas started former Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner in the opposite net. For a fan of good goaltending, this was a fun matchup to get excited about.

Vegas did not waste much time taking the 1–0 lead after center Ryan Carpenter lost a draw in his own end, and defenseman Ben Hutton scored his first goal of the season past Fleury. This is a great place to mention that face-offs do in fact matter in the NHL, contrary to what some would claim. A win at the dot by Chicago does not lead to Vegas getting a shot that found the back of the net. Seems pretty simple.

Chicago’s best highlight was their lack of production in the offensive zone. The visitors were able to go over 12 minutes without a shot on goal. In the Sin City, sleep-walking through the first period is a common issue for visiting teams. Unfortunately, this is from a lack of offensive talent up and down the Bowman-constructed lineup.

In the second period of action, Jujhar Khaira scored in his third game back from injury after beating Lehner blocker side for his third goal of the season. Khaira found a loose puck on his stick just over the Vegas blue line and buried the wrist shot home to tie the game 1–1.

Chicago’s energy and battle for loose pucks were noticeably better in the middle frame. Interim Head Coach Derek King has mentioned on numerous post-game interviews that this team has not played a full 60 minutes of hockey much since he has taken over behind the bench this season, and once again, you can see this in only 30 minutes of action against Vegas.

Not to go unnoticed, King did shake up his first period lines.

With 5:39 left in the second period, defenseman Riley Stillman fired a shot from the left point that deflected off Brett Howden and passed Lehner to give Chicago a 2–1 lead. Having only managed to muster 11 shots to that point, Chicago somehow found themselves on top of Vegas. The goal was Stillman’s first this season.

Vegas started the third period with the sense of urgency one would expect from the top team in the West, peppering Fleury without any luck into the first commercial break. The Blackhawks needed to show they believe in themselves and understand the importance of executing the small details that help protect a one-goal lead.

Chicago executed a simple plan of making safe exits out of their own zone and playing a solid five-man effort in the defensive zone. Offensively, Chicago got pucks in deep and did well to clog up the neutral zone and not overcommit too deep into the Vegas zone. With this defensive effort, Chicago allowed only six shots on net the final dozen or so minutes.

With Lehner pulled, Vegas could not muster much pressure, and Chicago held on for the one goal victory behind Fleury’s 30-save effort.

Analysis

It was awesome to see Khaira score after his return from a scary concussion.

Stillman found the back of the net after throwing a puck on net. Fans hear it all the time that pucks need to be put on net and good things happen.

How about the sport of hockey? Chicago lost to the worst team in the NHL a few days before winning at the home of the Western Conference’s top team. That is why we come back to watch.

The Blackhawks return to action on Tuesday, traveling to Ohio to face the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 6 p.m. CST puck drop.

Center Ice Forums Fleury comes up aces in return to Vegas as Chicago wins 2–1

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