The Hawks entered Thursday night in almost a must-win situation, because they needed to end a four game losing streak and get back in the win column after losing some tough games lately. They succeeded in taking care of business. Led by Martin Havlat (2 goals), Patrick Sharp (1 goal, 2 assists), and Jonathan Toews (1 goal, 2 assists), the Hawks knocked off the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 6-3, grabbing their first win in December.
Chicago came out in the 1st period with a strong effort, looking determined to end the recent losing skid. Just over 3 minutes into the 1st, the Hawks had the puck in the offensive zone. Adam Burish found Tuomo Ruutu with a cross-ice pass, and Ruutu let a quick snap shot go that would beat Kings goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin, giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead early in the game.
Later in the period, with about 6 and a half minutes remaining in the 1st, the Hawks extended their lead to a two goal advantage. On this play, Martin Havlat showed some nice stick-handling to get himself into a good scoring position, and he let a shot go from in close that deflected off Aubin and into the net, making it 2-0 Hawks at that point.
Just 34 seconds after the Havlat goal, the Blackhawks would add to their lead again. On this play, Duncan Keith skated into the Kings' zone and let a quick slapper go that seemed to surprise Aubin a bit, and it got past him for another goal, making it 3-0 Chicago with about six minutes left in the 1st. Aubin was pulled at this point, and replaced by backup Jonathan Quick.
With 55 seconds remaining in the opening frame, the Kings scored what looked like kind of a questionable goal, although upon further review it was clear it was a good goal. On this play, Michal Handzus scored a goal from point blank range, and it appeared that Shawn Thornton crashed into Nikolai Khabibulin before the puck went in, but the replay showed that Martin Havlat pushed Thornton into him, so it stood. This made it 3-1 Hawks, heading into the first intermission.
Five minutes into the 2nd, the Blackhawks would be on a 5-on-3 power play advantage, and they would be able to take advantage of it. With everyone set up around the Kings' zone, Martin Havlat made a nice play by using the room that he was given to walk in and put a wrist shot from in close past Aubin, making it 4-1 Blackhawks early in the 2nd period.
Late in the 2nd, with about 3 and a half minutes to go, the Kings pulled to within two goals of the Hawks. On this play, Patrick O'Sullivan found a loose puck in front after a shot from the point by Rob Blake, and he was able to bury it past Khabibulin and into the net, making it a 4-2 Chicago lead, which is how it stayed into the 2nd intermission.
In the 3rd period, just about six and half minutes in, the Kings had the Hawks a bit worried when they dented the net again to pull within a goal of tying the game, after Kyle Calder set up the young and very talented Anze Kopitar, who a let an absolute bomb go from long distance that got past Khabibulin. This made it 4-3 Kings and had everyone, especially me, worried that the 'Hawks were going to blow this one and lose a heartbreaker. Not in this one, however.
Just 42 seconds after the Kopitar goal, the Blackhawks would respond with a huge tally of their own. After the Hawks were swarming the net a bit in the Kings' zone, Patrick Kane let a shot go that wound up deflecting off of Jonathan Toews and past Quick, making it 5-3 Blackhawks and helping Chicago grab the momentum right back from LA.
The Hawks took control of the game for good at this point, and didn't really let the Kings back into it. With just about two minutes remaining, Patrick Sharp put the icing on the cake when he went in on a breakaway and put it home with a nice shot to make it 6-3 Hawks, which is how this one would end.
Also, interesting to note that there was a couple of fights in this one, both of them happening simultaneously in fact. In the 1st period, Tuomo Ruutu laid a strong, clean hit on Lubomir Visnovsky in the Kings' zone, and LA's Brad Stuart took exception to this and challenged Ruutu, and the two dropped the gloves. At the same time, Adam Burish also fought Derek Armstrong, sticking up for Ruutu. I would give both decisions to Ruutu and Burish, as they both seemed to handle their respective tilts very well. Never a bad thing to see players mixing it up a little.
A big, big win in my opinion, the Blackhawks really needed this one after playing poorly so far in December, and while the Kings haven't been a very strong team this year, it was good to see the 'Hawks get back to doing the things that made them successful: Creating things on offense, eliminating turnovers for the most part, and playing inspired hockey for all 60 minutes.
SCH Hawks Player Of The Game: Martin Havlat, who had two nice goals and was slick as always with the puck.