The Carolina Hurricanes came to the United Center last night to face the red-hot Blackhawks, who had won four straight games coming into the contest. The Hurricanes have been equally hot, winners of three in a row. While the Blackhawks’ goaltending tandem, for now, seems to be coming up aces, Robin Lehner took the net for Chicago, facing Petr Mrazek for the Canes.
The Blackhawks lines and pairings were:
The Blackhawk Express basically derailed at the start of this game. Action was fairly even in the early going, though it was evident that that Carolina came to play. The Blackhawks struggled to clear their end at times while, at the other end of the ice, the Canes seemed to have little difficult getting pucks out.
After an Erik Gustafsson blowout and turnover at the Carolina blueline, and an ensuing two-on-zero break on Lehner, Martin Necas put the Canes ahead 1–0 at 5:36, which was how the period would end. Shots were 13–4 Carolina for the period.
Bad fortune would continue for Chicago in the second period when Andrei Svechnikov caught Lehner unaware and beat him at just 53 seconds in with a quick, knuckle-balling shot from the right circle for a 2–0 Carolina lead.
The Hawks finally got something going when Dominik Kubalik and Andrew Shaw appeared ready to go on a two-on-zero themselves, but Kubalik was pulled down by Dougie Hamilton at 8:14. However, the two best scoring chances of the ensuing power play would be for the Canes’ Sebastian Aho, who got in on Lehner twice.
Sure enough, not too long after the Canes killed the penalty, Nino Niederreiter absolutely abused Gustafsson, beating him wide at center ice and flipping a puck up over Lehner in close at 11:54 to extend the gap to 3–0 Carolina.
Making matters potentially worse, Patrick Kane took a tripping call at 13:33. The Hawks were able to kill the penalty off, however. The period ended with the Canes up by three. Shots for the second were 14–8 Carolina.
The Blackhawks brought the pressure in the third with defensemen well up the ice—which finally paid off at 12:05 when Gustafsson gathered a pinpoint Patrick Kane pass right in front of Mrazek and buried it, cutting the score to 3–1.
Less than a minute later, Connor Murphy was the recipient of a Kane dish as he jumped into the slot. Murphy had all day and did not miss, bringing Chicago to within one at 3–2.
At this point, the building was jumping in anticipation of an epic comeback, shots were 20–6 Chicago for the period, but the Hawks simply were unable to solve Mrazek one more time. Head coach Jeremy Colliton pulled Lehner for an extra attacker late‚ but that turned into an Aho empty-net goal to make the final 4–2 Carolina.
Not much. When you have Patrick Kane and enough other offensive talent—as the Hawks do—you can always mount a late comeback by pulling all the stops. But, this is a high-risk strategy that you should only utilize to get back into a game as Chicago did in the third.
It is fair to say the Hawks may have been reading their own press clippings a bit of late and did not come into the game with the requisite intensity needed against a quality foe like the Hurricanes.
He may have scored a goal when defense did not matter, but Gustafsson continues to be a massive liability as a defender whenever he is on the ice. End of story.