In their first meeting this season, the Hawks were nursing a one-goal lead late in the third period with Antti Niemi standing on his head. Two horrendous goals later, the Canucks walked out of the United Center with a 3-2 victory.
This time, the Hawks were nursing a 1-0 lead with Niemi playing strong in net. On this night, however, there would be no letdown.
Niemi stood strong during Vancouver’s push for the equalizing goal as did the Hawks defense. Every shot they pushed to the net was turned aside and the Hawks played the last five minutes as if they were holding a one-goal lead in April or May.
The game was scoreless heading into the third period. A minute and a half in, Jonathan Toews hit Patrick Kane with a cross-ice neutral zone pass. With the Canucks defensemen bunched up, Kane had a little breathing to carry the puck. He crossed the Vancouver blue line and stopped at the top of the circles. He fed a saucer pass to a streaking Brian Campbell. Campbell carried the puck to the outside and tried to cut across the slot. As he did, he lost control of the puck where it hit Toews’ skate. Bryan Bickell was standing nearby and got two whacks at the puck. His second one went in.
From there, the Canucks ditched their trapping scheme and started sending two forecheckers on the Hawks defense. In turn, the Hawks defensemen did a terrific job of taking the intial hit, reversing the play, and stalling Vancouver’s aggressive forecheck.
There were a couple close calls, though, including Alex Edler hitting the post on a rocket shot from the top of the circle and a mad scramble in the closing seconds with bodies lying all over the crease.
—Last year, the Hawks started off 3-0 on the Circus Trip when they swept through Phoenix, Dallas, and Toronto. This kicked off a massive celebration where Blackhawk fans were spotted for days after running around the streets of Chicago with their pants down.
Needless to say, the trip was already deemed an overwhelming success regardless of the outcome of the final three games. Then, in their final three games of the trip in California, they went 0-2-1, which inspired the now infamous Martin Havlat rant from Tim Sassone.
Basically what I’m trying to say is, if you think this trip is already a success, then whatever happens in these next three games shouldn’t affect how good you feel right now.
–Tonight was not the best game I’ve seen from Kris Versteeg and I think Joel Quenneville agreed. Versteeg made a ton of mistakes with the puck on both sides of the blue line. In the second period, he almost got killed when he held on to the puck too long as he crossed into the Vancouver zone. He only saw 13 minutes of ice time.
–There may be a few chalk outlines along the GM Place courtesy of Dustin Byfuglien. On more than one occassion, Byfuglien went out of his way to rail-road a Canuck with a huge hit and he delivered. Hey, if he’s going to botch a couple of odd-man rushes, at least he’s doing something worth while.
–Someone in the GM Place production staff is probably feeling pretty sheepish tonight. With a face-off in the Hawks zone and less than 20 seconds remaining, Kevin Bieksa fired a shot wide of the net. Someone got an itchy trigger-finger and blasted the goal horn. This led to mass confusion and everyone slowing down for a couple seconds. Of course, the Hawks didn’t exactly take advantage as Duncan Keith just flung the puck up the boards to feed Vancouver’s point and keep the puck in the offensive end. Can’t say I’ve ever seen that before.
*On the Farm*
—The Rockford IceHogs were unable to overcome their slow start against the Texas Stars in 4-3 overtime loss on Saturday night. Rockford set a season-low with only 2 shots on goal in the first period. In the second, the Stars scored at the beginning and the end of the period to give themselves a 2-0 advantage.
Forty-eight seconds into the third, Simon Danis-Pepin scored his first career AHL goal with help from Danny Bois and Mark Cullen. The Stars scored a minute later for another two goal cushion. Five minutes later, Cullen scored on the power-play with assists from Peter MacArthur and Jack Skille.
With just under three minutes left in the game, Cullen scored again to knot the score at 3. Nathan Davis and Brian Connelly were credited with assists.
Both teams were skating for the extra point in overtime and it was Texas who walked away with it when they scored with a minute and eight seconds left in the extra frame.
Joseph Fallon stopped 24 of 28 shots in a losing effort.
—Shawn Lalonde scored a goal on the power-play and had an assist in a 3-1 win over the Plymouth Whalers on Saturday night. Belleville was shutout on Sunday afternoon 3-0 by the Brampton Battalion. Lalonde was a -2 (though one of the minuses came on an empty-net goal) and had 2 penalty minutes.
—Kyle Beach was held scoreless in Spokane’s 3-2 loss to the Red Deer Rebels on Saturday. Sunday, he had a goal and an assist in the Chiefs 3-2 win over the Calgary Hitmen.
—Byron Froese was a non-factor in Everett’s 4-1 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday.
–The UMD Bulldogs completed the weekend sweep over their intra-state rival, the University of Minnesota, with a 3-2 win on Saturday. Trailing 2-0 after the first period, the Bulldogs scored three unanswered goals. Dylan Olsen assisted on two of the goals and had 5 shots on goal. Dan DeLisle dressed but did not figure in the outcome.
—Billy Sweatt scored two goals and had an assist in Colorado College’s 4-1 victory over Robert Morris. In his senior year, Sweatt is bouncing back from his worst season at CC with his best. After scoring 12 goals and 11 assists in 37 games last year, Sweatt currently leads the team in points with 8 goals and 11 assists in 12 games.