Saturday night was a matchup between two teams that play a wide open style of hockey, which made for an exciting tilt in Ottawa. After all the dust had cleared, the Blackhawks ended up tying up the game in the 3rd period and eventually winning in OT, 4-3 over the Ottawa Senators.
You could tell from the start that this one was going to be fast-paced and exciting throughout the entire 60 minutes. The Senators have a ton of team speed and skill, and they were very aggressive from the drop of the first puck, leaving the Blackhawks on their heels a bit.
About four minutes into the game, the Blackhawks would get a power play with a chance to get an early lead in this one, but it would be the Senators that would find a way to get on the scoreboard first.
With the puck in the Senators' zone, it came to the blue-line where Jonathan Toews tried to pick it up, but it was at his feet and he eventually coughed it up to former Hawk Dean McAmmond, who scooped it up and was in on a short-handed rush. McAmmond went from forehand to backhand and shoveled it past Nikolai Khabibulin, making it 1-0 Ottawa.
Not even two minutes after the McAmmond goal, the Blackhawks came right back and tied the game up. This happened after Duncan Keith found Adam Burish with a nice pass as he was skating in over the Senators' line, and Burish found Martin Lapointe just inside the blue-line. Lapointe just wound it up and let a slap-shot go that would beat Senators' goalie Ray Emery, making it a 1-1 game with still about 13 minutes left in the 1st.
Just over 3 minutes after the Lapointe goal, the Senators would come up with a goal of their own again, getting the lead right back. On this play, the puck was at the point where Wade Redden picked it up and sent it on goal, and Dany Heatley was in front, getting his stick on it and tipping it past Khabibulin. At first this goal was disallowed due to the officials saying it was high sticked, but the replay clearly showed it was not, and the goal stood, making it 2-1 Senators at that point. That is how the score would stay into the first intermission.
In the 2nd, the Senators came out strong again and, just under 3 minutes into the period, they would pick up another goal to extend their lead. After a faceoff in the 'Hawks zone, Dany Heatley would pick up the puck and quickly dash towards the other end of the rink, dishing it off to Shean Donovan. Heatley would then go right to the net, and Donovan would throw it right there, with Heatley tipping it in past Khabibulin, giving Ottawa a 3-1 lead.
Not even 5 minutes later, the Hawks would get a goal of their own to cut the deficit back down to one goal. On the power play, Dustin Byfuglien would simply slide the puck along the point to Brent Seabrook, who just unleashed a one-timer that would blow by Emery, making it a 3-2 Senators lead. The score would stay 3-2 into the second intermission.
In the 3rd, the Blackhawks probably had their best period of the game, and they were rewarded with a goal very early in the frame. Just 38 seconds in, Patrick Sharp would pick up a power play goal, when he received a very nice pass from Jonathan Toews, and put a wrist shot by the glove side of Emery, tying the game up at a 3-3 score with a lot of time to go in the 3rd period.
The rest of the 3rd would be pretty wide open, with both teams picking up some real good scoring chances, but I'd have to say that Ottawa controlled the play for the most part. They had a ridiculous amount of odd-man rushes, and you have to give a ton of credit to Khabibulin, who was a huge reason that this game was close. Spezza, Alfredsson and Heatley are all very special players, and they made some of the Blackhawks' defensemen look real bad tonight -- especially Brent Sopel, who probably had his worst game of the year.
Despite that, these two teams remained tied at 3 when the 3rd period ended, so the game went to OT. 2:07 into the extra frame, the Blackhawks would pick up a goal to win it. On this play, Patrick Sharp would make a steal in the neutral zone and would move in on a 2-on-2 with Toews. Sharp made a very patient play to wait and then dish it off to the net, where Toews had put himself. Toews made a real nice play to tip it in to the net, giving the Hawks a hard-fought victory.
I have to commend the Blackhawks for their effort in this one. They were playing the best team in the Eastern Conference and never stopped battling, staying with the Senators all night and able to come back like they have done several times this year. I thought some of the grinders, like David Bolland, Adam Burish and Martin Lapointe had good games. Duncan Keith, while he still makes me a little nervous when he has the puck, played fairly strong in his own zone, and he had 27:35 of ice time last night, so you know he spent a lot of time going against the most talented players Ottawa could throw out there. Overall, I would love to see a lot more games like this from the Hawks, instead of the kind of games they've been playing for the most part in December.
The game wasn't all good news though. Martin Havlat would leave after just about 8 minutes of ice time with what is being called a strained groin, and his status for Sunday's game against Edmonton is uncertain right now. Anyone surprised he's hurt again? Yeah, me neither.
SCH Hawks Player Of The Game: I gotta go with Jonathan Toews, who had a goal and two assists, and picked up the game winner in OT.