Losers of four of their last five, the Chicago Blackhawks hoped to turn their bad feelings into good feelings with the Edmonton Oilers coming to the United Center sans rookie phenom Connor McDavid. Patrick Kane scored a season-high four points, Artemi Panarin picked up three more and Corey Crawford made 34 saves to lead the Hawks to a 4-2 win on Sunday night.
Panarin put the Blackhawks up early, one-timing a pass from Kane from a bad angle 58 seconds into the contest. With 2:29 to go in the first period, Panarin took a cross-ice pass (again from Kane), weaved his way through the neutral zone and zipped a wrister from the slot past Oilers goalie Cam Talbot for a 2-0 score (GIF via @myregularface):
After controlling the pace in the first period, the Blackhawks allowed Edmonton to put the first 13 shots on net through half of the second. Typically a strong team possession-wise with a 59.7 Corsi For percentage in the second period at home so far this season (via war-on-ice.com), the Hawks were badly outplayed by the Oilers in the frame and outshot, 22-6. Crawford stood tall despite a collision behind the net with Oilers left wing Benoit Pouliot and made several tough saves on prime chances to keep the Hawks ahead by two.
With Viktor Tikhonov off for interference three minutes into the third, Oilers forward Jordan Eberle scored on the power play to cut the lead in half. But Kane gave the Blackhawks some breathing room with 6:32 left, sneaking a backhand shot past Talbor after a pass from Artem Anisimov bounced off an Edmonton defender as they entered the zone.
It was Anisimov's 200th career point and Kane's 10th goal of the season, tying him for the league lead. Andrej Sekera scored with 1:51 left and Edmonton's net empty to make it 3-2, but Kane fed Anisimov at the goal mouth for a power play score with five seconds left and the Hawks survived.
ONE, TWO, TREE THOUGHTS
A Win is a Win
It wasn't pretty, but we'll take it. With Marian Hossa returning and Duncan Keith on the mend, the Blackhawks are getting healthy and hopefully can start to string some wins together, starting at home on Thursday against New Jersey and then through the upcoming Circus Trip. You'll remember this was the point in the season the Hawks started to put together a nice run last season, so hopefully Hossa's prediction of a 15-game team learning curve will turn out to be clairvoyant.
Bread Man Rising
With the long-term injury to McDavid, Panarin has moved up in the race for the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL's rookie of the year. While not receiving the attention of other rookies, such as Buffalo's Jack Eichel, Panarin leads all rookies in assists and points with 4-11-15 line and is starting to earn some consideration.
The Watcher on the Wall
Corey Crawford was the difference in this game. Crow needed a bounceback game after giving up 10 goals in his last two starts and he got it. Yes, there were some haters out there the last couple days making their voices heard, but hopefully this game gets Crawford back on track.