What a game for the Hawks to win at home for the first game after their circus trip. They took one away from the “road hot” Anaheim Ducks with 3 unanswered goals in the last 6 minutes of the game to finish with a 4-2 win. Huet gets his first win since Nov. 9th, and revenge on the Ducks for a heartbreaking 1-0 loss last Friday.
The Hawks really needed to solve Anaheim stand-in rookie goaltender Jonas Hiller early if they wanted a chance to win this game. And it looked promising after Hawks leading goal scorer Patrick Sharp put in a one-timer from Kane just 15 seconds into their second power play of the night. Yet after dominating in the first period with a shot advantage of 17-9 going into the second, they fell flat in the middle frame.
The Hawks’ momentum was pretty much already gone when Selanne put in yet another power play goal halfway through the 2nd period. So with the game tied at 1-1, the guys in red couldn’t really get much going. They struggled with their breakout, and with Anaheim shutting down the neutral zone, there was way too much east-west movement between the blue lines and not enough penetration in the offensive zone. They pretty much conceded their large shot advantage giving up 15 in the second and only answering with 11 in the second.
So you can imagine the Hawks needed a strong 3rd period if they wanted any chance to take one from the Ducks, ranked 3rd in the Western Conference. Well, Chris Pronger pretty much silenced the crowd with a blue line blast just one minute into the third period to give the lead to Anaheim. Come to think about it, the Sharks scored in the 1st minute of the 3rd when we saw them at the UC on Nov. 16th. Not a good habit to get into, boys.
Much of the next 15 minutes of the 3rd period was pretty hard to watch. It seemed like the Ducks had the Hawks right where they wanted them, with a 2-1 lead and solid pressure in the neutral zone preventing an offensive attack. It wasn’t until Duck forward Ryan Getzlaf took a slashing penalty on an Anaheim power play that broke the game open. Playing 4-on-4 hockey, the ice opened up and the Hawks got back into the game. With less than 15 seconds left on the 4-on-4, Hawks rookie Kris Versteeg undressed the Anaheim blue-liner (Blackhawks TV) and made a great dish to Keith, who in turn fed Havlat and the back of the net. The crowd was back in it after that.
With about 4 minutes left in the third period, the Hawks gave up a quality scoring chance to Anaheim’s Getzlaf, not doubt trying to redeem himself for the slashing penalty he took on the power play two shifts earlier. Huet stoned him dead-to-rights, to which Getzlaf unleashed his frustration and took a crosscheck right to the mask of the Hawks netminder. With the fans screaming at the non-call, Huet took exception and gave Getzlaf a face full of blocker in classic Khabibulin style. That seemed to appease the fans, and Huet for that matter.
Final Two Minutes
The home team recaptured much of the momentum in the 3rd after that tying goal. With Hall of Famer Bobby Hull in the house, and on the very next play after showing him on the jumbotron watching from his skybox, the Hawks reaped the benefits of their re-found momentum with a great play from Versteeg to Toews in the Anaheim goal mouth that turned out to be the game winner. The house on Madison went completely nuts after that. The Ducks had one last chance after pulling Hiller, but the Hawks shut ’em down and Bolland added the empty netter to seal the deal.
What an amazing victory for the Hawks’ return to the United Center. They really needed this one and hope to carry the momentum into Joe Louis Arena to face their Central Division rivals, the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings have been on their usual tear as of late, so we’re going to have to strike early and often against the Wings if we want to repeat our domination of the team from the Motor City that we had last year. As always, it’s going to be a great game.