After an awful road trip ending with a collapsing loss to the St. Louis Blues, the Chicago Blackhawks returned home to the United Center to take on the Minnesota Wild. Despite the team’s poor play, head coach Jeremy Colliton didn’t swap any players in and out. Prior to the game, Kris Versteeg skated for #OneMoreShift.
The Blackhawks were lucky to not be down a couple of goals at the start of this game. Robin Lehner stopped a few prime scoring chances from directly in front of the net within the first five minutes of the opening period.
Chicago actually turned it on and had a few decent shifts in the offensive zone. The second line of Alexander Nylander, Dylan Strome, and Patrick Kane pressured the Wild defense. Kane came away with the puck and converted on his second attempt, although the goal needed video review to prove it actually went in the net.
Kane scored again on the power play, and this time the puck clearly went in the net past Kaapo Kahkonen (not to be confused with Kaapo Kakko) to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead. But the Wild quickly drew a penalty of their own and Eric Staal sniped a shot right by Lehner on the power play to collect the 1,000th point of his career.
Congrats on 1,000 points, Eric Staal! pic.twitter.com/ykuZ1HG1LL
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) December 16, 2019
In the second period, Kane’s pass in the offensive zone was blocked by Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala found himself on a partial breakaway. Fiala lifted a shot by Lehner’s shoulder to tie the game at two.
However, that tie disappeared halfway through the period when Connor Murphy‘s original shot was deflected by David Kampf to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead. And again, another lead for Chicago disappeared when Fiala’s attempt at a pass went off Olli Maata‘s skate and in the net.
The third period was mostly boring, until the Blackhawks capitalized after a good shift with established pressure in their offensive zone. Once again, Murphy’s shot from the blue line was deflected through multiple players in front of the Wild’s net. Brandon Saad was credited with the game-winning goal to give Chicago a 4-3 lead.
While the Wild pressured as the end of the game neared, the Blackhawks kept fighting for possession with the net empty and hard work by Jonathan Toews led to Patrick Kane’s empty-net goal. That goal secured the sixth hat trick of Kane’s career and the Blackhawks’ first win in the last five games.
Around The Boards
The Hawks looked decent: After four purely brutal games, the Blackhawks put together a much better effort tonight. They defended better and they were way better on the forecheck. There weren’t as many defensive breakdowns that we’re accustomed to seeing each night. Overall, this was a decent game by Chicago.
Erik Gustafsson was…good?: Most Blackhawks fans harp on Erik Gustafsson, and rightfully so. But he had a great game tonight. He had multiple scoring chances, eight shot attempts, and was only on the ice for one high-danger chance against. Gustafsson also made some notable defensive plays, including a great stick check to break up Kevin Fiala’s breakaway in the first period.
Stop giving up multi-goal leads: As Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times noted on Twitter, the Blackhawks have blown four multi-goal leads in the last seven games. That’s just not acceptable. They’re not good enough to be able to sit back and relax with any sort of lead. It’s obviously just one problem out of many this team has, but it’s a crazy stat that should be pointed out.