In the National Hockey League, there are teams you absolutely have to beat. When you're in the midst of a playoff race, taking two points against those teams becomes even more crucial. Which made it imperative for the Chicago Blackhaks to take a couple against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night. It didn't always look like those two points would find their way into the standings for the Hawks, however.
The Blackhawks played the first 45 minutes of Friday's tilt without finding the back of the net. They found themselves trailing by a 1-0 count after Derek Roy scored his seventh of the year just a touch over 15 minutes into the opening frame. Not only that, they surrendered 29 shots against the first two periods alone, with Edmonton getting the puck to the net on 47 different occasions for the game.
Luckily, the Hawks managed their own opportunities as well. Although they did surrender an alarming amount of shots, they still managed 39 of their own and trailed by just two in the Corsi department, at 78-76 for the evening. Of course, even with all of those opportunities, they still couldn't cash in.
That was mostly due to the play of Ben Scrivens, who had quite an outstanding night for the Oilers. He stopped 38 of the 39 shots and had the Blackhawks visibly frustrated. No Hawk was more frustrated than Patrick Sharp, who led the team with six shots. It wasn't until Brent Seabrook fired one past him at the 13:58 mark of the third period that the Hawks were finally able to get on the board. Despite some chances in the third that would have given them an advantage on the scoreboard, they were unable to cash in.
Neither side was able to end the game in regulation, or in overtime. The Oilers had their chances in the extra frame, but couldn't put anything past Corey Crawford. Ultimately, it was up to a shootout to determine the result of this one. None of Derek Roy, Jordan Eberle, or Teddy Purcell could notch a goal in the shootout, while Jonathan Toews and (predictably) Patrick Sharp were both stopped by Scrivens. Antoine Vermette endeared himself to Chicago fans in scoring on the third attempt for the Hawks, and taking that second point.
Of course, this is an entirely different game if not for Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks were noticeably outplayed in the first period, with Crawford coming up huge in order to minimize the damage and keep the score at 1-0. He continued to do so throughout the latter two periods, as well as the overtime frame in which the Hawks were outshot 5-2. Each of the Oilers' opportunities in the shootout were met with a Crawford save. Crawford stopped 46 of 47 shots in regulation and overtime.
This wasn't exactly the prettiest of efforts, particularly in the first period, but two points is two points. The win draws the Hawks within a pair of the St. Louis Blues for third in the Western Conference standings, though the Blues do have a game in hand over the Hawks. Next up, a potentially good one against a top Eastern Conference team in the New York Rangers on Sunday evening. Onto the stars:
Three Stars of the Night
3. Antoine Vermette
By virtue of his shootout goal alone, the second-newest Blackhawk finds his way on here. His goal was a sweet one, right between the pads of Scrivens in the third round of the shootout. He logged a nice 18:40 and was just on the positive side of the possession chart, with a 51 CF%.
2. Brent Seabrook
Seabrook was the only member of the Blackhawks that could get a puck past Ben Scrivens, as his third period blast evened things up at one. He had a strong game even beyond that, as he was the Hawks' second best possession d-man, with three blocks and three takeaways for the evening, continuing his quietly brilliant season.
1. Corey Crawford
Who else was going to find their way to the top spot? Crawford has been rounding into form of late and has played particularly well in his last three outings. Without Crawford coming up as big as he did, especially early on, the Hawks are staring major disappointment in the face against Edmonton once again.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.