Sooner or later, the Hawks were going to erupt. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. Sunday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Hawks got on the board seven and a half minutes into the game when Duncan Keith intercepted a pass in the neutral zone. He fed it to a streaking Patrick Kane who snapped a shot over Antero Nittymaki’s right shoulder to put the Hawks on the board.
Six minutes later, Kane was skating for a loose puck in the Tampa Bay zone. With Kane skating towards the boards, Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby stuck his stick in between Kane’s feet and sent him sprawling to the boards. Kane banged the side of his head on the ice and for good measure, hit the boards with his whole body at full speed. He wouldn’t return to the game.
For whatever reason, the injury seemed to temporarily knock the wind out of the Hawks. Even with a full minute and ten seconds of a two-man advantage, the Hawks generated very little pressure.
Joel Quenneville may disagree here, but even though the Hawks didn’t score on the 5-on-3, the game wasn’t immediately a lost cause.
In the second period, the Hawks had to kill off a 5-on-3 of their own. They did, with Antti Niemi making the necessary saves and the Blackhawk defenders sweeping all the humongous rebounds out of harm’s way.
Just a couple minutes after killing off the penalties, Marian Hossa beat Victor Hedman to a loose puck in the Lightning zone. With his partner Matt Walker (SURPRISE!!!) overcommitting to Hossa, the front of the net was wide open. Hossa flicked a back-hand pass to Ben Eager and all Eager needed to do was tap it in the empty net.
Hossa wasn’t finished there.
With under thirty seconds left in the period, Hossa picked an errant Patrick Sharp pass out of the air, dropped it to his stick, and in one motion with the puck never touching the ice, Hossa batted it right through Nittymaki’s legs.
Jonathan Toews finished the scoring in the third when he banged in a Dustin Byfuglien rebound. Toews sprung Byfuglien in the neutral zone and with a full head of steam, Byfuglien cranked a snap shot from the right hash mark. Nittymaki kicked out the big rebound and Toews was more than happy to deposit the puck into the empty net.
—Whoever is in charge of calling tv timeouts at the United Center is doing an awful job. Two games in a row, the guy inadvertently turned on the red light following an icing. On Wednesday night, it nearly led to an Ice Girl getting skulled by the referee. On Sunday, there was a bit of a scuffle following an icing before WGN cut away to a commercial. They came back to the action 15 seconds later. How hard is it to remember there’s no tv timeouts following an icing? It’s not like this rule recently came into affect. Maybe, someone under the age of 74 should be in charge down there.
—Matt Smaby was nearly successful in his attempts to completely destroy the Blackhawks season. After taking out Kane with a dangerous play in the first period, he took a dirty and unnecessary run at Jonathan Toews with just under two minutes left in the second period. A good two seconds after Toews released a shot on net, Smaby cut across the ice and finished his check on Toews. The hit knocked Toews’ helmet off and as he came back down to the ice, his face grazed the ice. A bit more contact there and really bad things could’ve happened.
I know better, but a league office with a bigger set would probably suspend Smaby. Either way, Toews took a nice chunk out of whatever was left of Smaby late in the third. A few minutes earlier, Dustin Byfuglien finished off his check and left a permanent imprint of Smaby on the United Center glass.
–So a team with Rick Tocchet on its coaching staff and Todd Fedoruk on its roster engages in extracurricular activity when they’re completely out of the game? I’m shocked. Really, just shocking.
–I really don’t want to see what the Hawks look like without Patrick Kane on the roster, but with an almost certain head injury, we may all have to find out, at least for a couple games.
–Strap it in here, folks. With his third shutout of the season, Antti Niemi is well on his way to legendary status. While it looks nice and all, two of his shutouts (this one and the second game in Finland) were played behind the Hawks’ best defensive efforts of the season. Niemi stopped one Martin St. Louis breakaway where St. Louis appeared to stop as he thought he was offsides and one mad scramble early in the second. After that, they could’ve rolled Bobby Hull out of the Legends Lounge and on to the ice and the result would’ve likely been the same.
–There is the Matt Walker we’ve all come to know and love. Eager’s goal in the second period was a vintage mistake from Walker. With his partner, Victor Hedman, taking care of his side of the ice, Walker completely forget his responsibility and left Eager all alone. Somewhere, Brian Campbell was nodding in approval.
–Unfortunately, the only person who should’ve injured his head on the ice Sunday night didn’t, Jim Belushi. It was hard to tell on WGN, but it certainly seemed like he got a rousing ovation from the Hawk faithful when he dropped the ceremonial opening face-off. Please tell me I’m wrong here.
*On the Farm*
—The IceHogs went touring through the State of Texas this weekend and came away 1-2-0.
Friday night, they dropped their opener to the Texas Stars 4-2. Rockford appeared well on their way to owning a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission when Kyle Greentree scored on the power play with a minute left in the period. Then, they gave up a goal with one second left in the period and Texas never looked back after that. Texas scored once in the second and once in the third to close out the scoring.
Rockford’s first goal also came on the power play when Daryl Boyle scored with assists from Greentree and Mark Cullen. Cullen also notched the lone assist on Greentree’s goal. Chicago-area native Greg Rallo led the Stars in scoring with a goal and an assist.
Joseph Fallon stopped 26 of 30 shots in the losing effort.
On Saturday, the IceHogs got some revenge by rebounding with a 3-2 win over Texas. Rockford jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from Bracken Kearns and Richard Petiot. Danny Bois, Kyle Greentree, and Rob Klinkhammer were the assisters.
Peter MacArthur scored, shortly after Texas cut the lead to 2-1, to give Rockford a two-goal advantage just past the halfway point of the second period. Mark Cullen and Ryan Flinn had assists.
Dan Cloutier returned from his one-game suspension and stopped 19 of 21 shots in his first win as a member of the IceHogs.
A Sunday matinee in Houston saw the IceHogs come out with a 4-1 loss to the Aeros. Trailing in the second 1-0, Evan Brophey scored his fifth goal of the year with help from Bryan Bickell and Rob Klinkhammer. The Aeros scored a power play goal six minutes later and it was all they would need.
With no points in the game, Kyle Greentree saw his point streak snapped at 9 games.
Dan Cloutier stopped 23 of 26 in the loss.
—Shawn Lalonde was a -1 in Belleville’s Friday night loss to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He didn’t play in Saturday night’s game as he headed to Team Canada’s National Junior Selection camp which will conclude next Wednesday.
—Byron Froese had an assist in Everett’s 3-2 loss on Friday to the Prince George Cougars. He also had an assist on Everett’s game-winning goal on Saturday when they beat the Seattle Thunderbirds 2-1. Sunday, the Silvertips came out flat in their final game of a back-to-back-to-back and lost to the Portland Winterhawks 2-0.
—Kyle Beach scored two goals and had an assist, and had six penalty minutes in the Chiefs 7-1 thrashing of the Chilliwack Bruins. He was scoreless on Saturday in Spokane’s 2-1 loss to the Swift Current Broncos. He did get called for cross-checking, though, as the game ended.
—Dylan Olsen was held in check in Minnesota-Duluth’s 3-2 loss to Denver on Friday. He did have two shots on goal. Saturday, Olsen also headed to Canada to participate in Team Canada’s National Junior Selection camp. Dan DeLisle dressed in both games, but was a non-factor.
—Brandon Pirri had three assists in a losing effort for RPI on Wednesday night against Union. RPI gave up two goals in the final minute to lose 5-4. Pirri also had an assist Saturday night in RPI’s 5-3 win over Boston University.
—Billy Sweatt scored for Colorado College in a 4-4 tie against St. Cloud State on Saturday. He was held off the scoresheet for the Tigers 4-1 win on Saturday night. Sweatt currently leads his team in points with 20 in 18 games.
—David Pacan had an assist in Vermont’s 3-0 over St. Lawrence on Saturday.