The Chicago Blackhawks kept rolling with a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins following the trade deadline on Wednesday night. It was an exciting way to wrap up a big day of hockey action, with a potential Stanley Cup Final preview leading to a thrilling, fast-paced dual between two very good teams.
In the end, it was a team effort that powered the Hawks to victory. Patrick Kane put up another hat trick, giving him seven goals in the past three games. Richard Panik had the best play of the night, scoring a mind-blowing goal in the second period that proved to be the game-winner. And Scott Darling was utterly fantastic, making save after save after the Blackhawks built their lead.
The only downside of the night was an injury to Artem Anisimov, who left in the first period with an unspecified issue. His status isn’t known yet, so hopefully it’s nothing serious and he’ll be back soon.
This was an impressive effort by the Blackhawks, who have won 10 of their last 11 games. They put up a solid effort without one of their best defensemen against the defending Stanley Cup champions, and that’s something to get excited about.
The opening frame set the tone for a speedy affair between two of the more skill-oriented teams in the league. The Blackhawks were able to control the puck early, but didn’t get any real A-plus chances out of it. The best one came a few minutes in when Nick Schmaltz made a power move to the net that drew a tripping penalty on a scrambling Justin Schultz.
The man advantage didn’t lead to much, however, and the opening frame ended scoreless. Both teams were also tied in 5-on-5 shot attempts (12-12) and shots on goal (7-7).
For all the attention that Jonathan Toews has gotten lately with his scoring binge, Kane is the one with seven goals in the past three games. He’s been scorching lately on his own, and scored his 25th goal of the season on an odd-man rush with Artemi Panarin. Kane was looking pass while shooting, and tricked Marc-Andre Fleury with a low shot.
The Penguins matched with their own goal in the final minutes of the period. It was an interesting scene as Scott Wilson beat Darling with a gorgeous backhand shot, but the referee near the goal initially ruled that it hit off the crossbar and play continued. The horn went off soon after that, and play stopped for a review, which confirmed Wilson scored to make it 1-1.
In the final minute, Toews and Panik had a 2-on-1, but Toews’ shot got kicked away by Fleury. The Penguins couldn’t clear the puck, however, and Panik made an incredible one-man effort to get into the slot and score.
The third period was all about Darling and Kane for the Hawks. The goalie made some spectacular saves, including one early in the third period when Matt Cullen got a point blank shot in front. The Blackhawks got outshot, 30-20, in the final two periods, yet they hung on largely thanks to his fantastic work in goal. Darling finished 36 of 37 on saves in the game, and now has a .953 save percentage in nine appearances since the start of January.
Kane added two more late goals for the hat trick, including an empty-netter to put it away. Finishing off a team as talented as the Penguins isn’t easy, but the Hawks did it with ease.
SCH 3 Stars
1. Patrick Kane (3 goals, 5 shots on goal)
2. Scott Darling (36 saves on 37 shots)
3. Richard Panik (1 goal, 4 shots on goal)