After a flurry of trades during the weekend that included the acquisition of former Hawk, Andrew Ladd, the Chicago Blackhawks showcased how much better a team they are with a 3-2 win over the league-leading Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon at the United Center.
With a 3-1 lead late in the third, the Capitals received a 5-on-3 man-advantage when Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was sent to the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct during a Washington power play. Coach Joel Quenneville was not pleased with the call as he gave the officials his two cents.
Joel Quenneville is upset with Hjalmarsson's penalty, @MarkLazerus provides the lip-reading. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/iuvOhlyT4o— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) February 28, 2016
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored five seconds into the power play to pull Washington within one. Despite a hectic push by the Capitals, Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford kept Washington off the scoreboard.
Crawford made 28 saves, and Chicago (39-20-5) got a game-winning goal from Dennis Rasmussen to snap a two-game losing streak and a season split against Washington (45-12-4). Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews also scored. Ladd tallied a secondary assist on Toews' goal for his first point in his second stint with Chicago.
It was Crawford's 33rd win on the season, tying his career high with Chicago. He is 2nd in the league in wins only to Holtby. The Blackhawks are now 30-0-2 when leading after two periods this season.
The first period saw the Blackhawks struggle to get their feet under them a little bit, as the Capitals outshot Chicago 16-5 and maintained consistent offensive pressure throughout. After an Andrew Desjardins high sticking penalty, Washington in turn would strike first on a power play goal by Marcus Johansson to make it 1-0. The Blackhawks would quickly answer back though after Trevor van Riemsdyk kept the puck in the zone, making a fantastic pass to Kane, who deked around Braden Holtby to knot the game up at 1-1. Kane is now the first Blackhawk since Patrick Sharp in the 2007-2008 season to have scored at least 36 goals in a year.
In the second period, Chicago began to take control and started consistently sustaining offensive pressure in the Washington zone. After a late Taylor Choorney tripping penalty, the pressure paid off when Teuvo Teravainen got the puck in the slot from Ladd and found Toews with a beautiful cross-ice pass to make it 2-1 with Toews' 22nd goal on the season.
The third and final frame saw the Blackhawks continue their stellar play. Thirteen minutes in, a great shift by the 4th line had Richard Panik get caught in traffic and kick the puck over to a wide open Rasmussen, who scored his first goal since Dec. 19 for a 3-1 lead.
- I don't think I'm mistaken in saying this was the best the Blackhawks looked in a few months, even during the 12 game winning streak. Other than a forgettable first period, Chicago consistently controlled play against arguably the current best team in the league in the Capitals. The newfound forward depth with the addition of Ladd and Tomas Fleischmann, as well as the full time move of Teravainen to center, seemed to really pay off. For the first time in awhile, the Hawks had four lines they could rely on in all of their respective roles and it showed. I don't think the Blackhawks necessarily looked at this February game as a statement by any means given their experience, but they definitely looked locked in and crisp against the best possible competition.
Teuvo Teravainen in place
- With the Hawks doubling down on Teravainen at center with the trade of Phillip Danault and acquisitions of Fleischmann and Dale Weise, it seems their best instincts are going to pay off. Teravainen made flash plays all afternoon . He showed off instant chemistry with Fleischmann, creating more than their fair share of high danger scoring opportunities, as well as Toews' goal. Teravainen's best and most obvious asset is his playmaking and instinct and it was constantly on display. There's a reason the Hawks placed all of this trust on the second-year player, because he handle it. It gets one excited for Weise's visa issues to be worked out as fast as possible and to really see Teravainen and his line shine.
Brutal schedule ahead
- A tough slog faces the Blackhawks in the first few weeks of March. Upcoming games include contests against the Red Wings in the home and home, the Bruins, and couple of road contests at Central Division rivals in the Blues and Stars.The schedule down the stretch after that isn't as friendly either. The trade deadline acquisitions should really help push Chicago over this tough upcoming stretch and it would be a more than ideal time to really push ahead in the standings. Gelling with new teammates and working on little things should be the primary concern but it'll be interesting to see how the Hawks come out of these final few gauntlets. Given what we saw Sunday without stalwarts like Marian Hossa, you get the sense it will be quite dandy.
The Blackhawks will have two days off before their next game against the Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.