RECAP: Blackhawks fall 5-4 to Sharks in home opener

  

After almost a week off, the Blackhawks finally played their second game of the season against the San Jose Sharks at home on Thursday night.

As expected, long-time Blackhawk Corey Crawford took the net for Chicago’s home opener in the second game of the season. There continues to be speculation as to how head coach Jeremy Colliton will split up the games in net between Crawford and Robin Lehner.

Here was the starting lineup for tonight’s matchup:

Alex Nylander — Jonathan Toews — Patrick Kane

Alex DeBrincat — Dylan Strome — Andrew Shaw

Brandon Saad — David Kampf — Dominik Kubalik

Zack Smith — Ryan Carpenter — Drake Caggiula

Duncan Keith — Erik Gustafsson

Olli Maatta — Brent Seabrook

Slater Koekkoek — Connor Murphy

Brendan Perlini and Calvin de Haan were the scratches.

First period

In the first five minutes, the Blackhawks did not get many chances. Newly signed Sharks forward Patrick Marleau got the first shot on net 21 seconds in and the Corey Crawford made some great saves early on.

The chances the home team did get were grade A about five minutes in. The third line maintained offensive zone time and simply threw the puck on net, generating a flurry of chances. Eventually, Brandon Saad retrieved a rebound off San Jose goaltender Aaron Dell and found a passing lane for Dominik Kubalik, who buried the puck in the wide-open net for his first NHL goal and a 1–0 Chicago lead.

A penalty by Ryan Carpenter in the offensive zone allowed the San Jose power play to get going and they did not let it go to waste. The Blackhawks lost the faceoff and Kevin Labanc scored off an impossible angle to tie the game at 1–1.

The tie did not last long, though. Just under two minutes after the Labanc goal, Olli Maatta retrieved a pass from around the boards and took a slap shot that Dell saved. But, with Andrew Shaw in his kitchen, Dell could only stop the puck so many times before it was shoved in. And boy, was Shaw excited to score his first back in a Blackhawk sweater and to give the home team the lead at 2–1.

Once again, another brutal offensive zone penalty for the Blackhawks led to another tie near the end of the first period. And you just had to know Marleau would score in his 1,658th career game. After one frame, the Blackhawks led the Sharks 14–11 in shots with the game tied at 2–2.

Second period

To start the second frame, the Blackhawks had a power play thanks to Shaw being himself and drawing a penalty against Brenden Dillon at the tail end of the first period. However, Chicago got nothing going on that man advantage. Kubalik continued to look fantastic and was rewarded with a promotion from the third line to the top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

The Blackhawks did convert on a prime scoring chance later on, though. After chasing the puck into the offensive zone, Alex DeBrincat stole it away from Erik Karlsson along the boards and fed it to Shaw. From the left faceoff dot, Shaw’s wrist shot found a path into the net behind Dell. The Blackhawks regained the lead for the third time in the game at 3–2 around nine and a half minutes into the second period.

Of course, that advantage did not last long. Just 33 seconds later, San Jose defenseman Brent Burns slid along the boards and put a shot in front of the net from right above the goal line. The puck bounced off Blackhawk defenseman Connor Murphy and directly behind Crawford, tying the game at 3–3.

Both teams exchanged chances for the next few minutes. After Crawford stopped a shot the Sharks put on net, the puck found its way to Kane, who slid it up to Dylan Strome on a two-on-one with DeBrincat. The Sharks’ defense just continued to watch the puck while Strome and Kane tossed it back and forth until Strome shot it home to give the Blackhawks a 4–3 edge.

San Jose continued to pressure the Blackhawks in the Chicago zone for the remainder of the period. With about two minutes left, a shot from Burns at the blue line tipped off the stick of Timo Meier to Crawford, who could not control the rebound. Maatta lifted his own stick off the ice to tie up Marleau, but that did not stop the forward from scoring yet again, tying the contest at 4–4.

After two periods, the Blackhawks and Sharks found themselves tied at four goals apiece with the visitors leading 23–22 in shots.

Third period

The Blackhawks did not look like they wanted to win in the third period. San Jose had the majority of the chances, and, luckily, Crawford stopped almost all of them.

Almost is the keyword there. Five minutes into the final frame, the Sharks circled around the Blackhawks for much too long. The puck found Joe Thornton behind the net and he spotted a wide-open Barclay Goodrow directly in front of the net. There was no defender on him, as Alex Nylander and Erik Gustafsson were both tied up with the same player along the boards. The Sharks had their first lead of the game at 5–4 and the Blackhawks looked dead on their feet.

In the final minute or so of the game, Chicago did have a decent amount of chances. None of them made their way into the net behind Dell and the Blackhawks lost 5–4, as San Jose earned their first win of the season. The Sharks outshot the Blackhawks 34–30 in the game.

The Blackhawks will remain at home Saturday night to face the Winnipeg Jets at 6 p.m.

Pluses

  • Dominik Kubalik was the best player for the Blackhawks. He scored the first goal of his NHL career and controlled play when on the ice. He looks like a steal so far.

Minuses

  • The penalty kill picked up right where it left off last year: looking terrible. San Jose scored two power play goals and now the Blackhawks are only 50% (three of six) on the penalty kill. That is not good enough at all.
  • After a good first game and stellar preseason, Alex Nylander was invisible tonight. He was bumped off the first line and moved to the third line, then eventually switched in for a double-shifting Patrick Kane.
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