The Blackhawks saw themselves back on the ice Thursday night, looking to avenge yet another painful extra time loss, this time to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes entered the game riding a 5-game win streak and the Hawks came in sporting a respectable 3-1-1 home record.
As good as the Hawks have been at home this year, this one did not start great. After only 75 seconds, the Blackhawks found themselves in an early hole, with Aho finding the back of the net through traffic, and I very quickly fully prepared myself for another long night. However, as has been the recipe for success for the Hawks, they found themselves back on the powerplay and the hot extra-man squad stayed hot with Kubalik sending a cross ice pass to Janmark who made no mistake on the doorstep, taking advantage of Reimer’s anticipation to score on a short-side backhand beauty.
Kubalik was not done with just the early powerplay assist, as the Hawks were once again back up a man later in the period. Nic Beaudin, fresh off the Covid-19 list absolutely whiffed on a one-timer from the point, but was very quickly forgiven as the loose puck floated over to Kubalik who fired an heat-seeking missile over the stick side shoulder of James Reimer, giving the Hawks their second PPG of the game and the lead late in the period.
Before the first frame expired, the Hawks once again found themselves with up a man with a long 5-on-3, which Carolina was able to weather to get back to 5-on-4. But with the remaining time on the powerplay, Patrick Kane found some space and a little bit of time and found Andrew Shaw in behind the defense, who was wasn’t able to get a clean shot on the redirect but hammered home the loose puck on the backhand to send the Hawks into the break up 3-1 with three powerplay tallies.
Much like the first period, the Hurricanes came out of the room ready for a fight, and did they ever come out swinging. Carolina got into the Chicago zone early, and Nino Niederreiter found a bouncing puck off a Chicago shot block that he was able to lift over the glove of a sprawling Kevin Lankinen to get the Canes back within one… briefly. Chicago won the ensuing faceoff but the outlet pass was quickly jumped by Dougie Hamilton who fired a shot that was stopped by Lankinen, but the juicy rebound was there for the taking and Svechnikov found the net for the second Hurricanes goal in 8 seconds, locking the game back up at 3.
Lankinen bounced back for the rest of the 2nd, standing tall and turning away a handful of good scoring chances by the Hurricanes, including an absolute beauty, flashing the leather on a deadly one-timer on the doorstep for Sebastian Aho late in the frame and an earlier stop on Brock McGinn who also found himself on the doorstep with nothing to show for it.
After surrendering a goal (or more) in the first 90 seconds of the previous two periods, the Hawks came out for the third with some fire, looking to take the game in regulation. Early on, Patrick Kane took a strong line to the net, challenging Slavin who took a holding penatly on Kane’s approach. Kane got a cheeky one handed look at the net that Reimer was able to handle, before Slavin continued into the crease, knocking Reimer (and the puck) into the net. While the referee was calling the holding penalty, Kane was directing everyone’s attention to the puck sitting ever so peacefully in the net. The play would go to video review where the referees confirmed what we already knew, Kaner can’t be stopped.
The Hurricanes were able to strike back shortly after Kane’s tally, with McGinn firing one home from the slot on a feed from Aho, reminding the Blackhawks that getting the lead is tough but hanging onto it is even harder.
In the last half of the 3rd period, the Blackhawks strapped in, put on their hard hats and got to work. With just over 7 minutes left in regulation, Kane found himself on the puck behind the net, and looked to push a pass through traffic to Pius Suter. The pass was tipped and gloved by Suter who was able to get a shot off in traffic, before DeBrincat sniffed out the rebound and found the twine for his first even strength goal of the year, and first goal since returning from Covid-19 protocol. This wouldn’t be DeBrincat’s only marker of the game, as he also potted the insurance goal on the empty net in the waning seconds of the game on a pass from Patrick Kane, who posted a 4-point night in the Hawks’ 4th win on home ice this year.
Finishing 3/5 on the extra man for the night, the Blackhawks powerplay moved into 4th in the league, being the team’s noticeably strongest asset, paired nicely with markedly more reliable goaltending from rookie Kevin Lankinen and a respectable performance on the man down. Like every team, it’s clear that the Hawks have some things that need attention sooner rather than later, but the growth that we can see from the season start to now is noticeable, and once the Hawks can secure that first win on the road, it’s all systems go for the lads from the Windy City.
The Blackhawks are off to the Lone Star State for a Super Bowl Sunday matinée with the Stars. Here’s all six Hawks goals to keep you going until then.