In Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss, the Blackhawks found themselves trailing by two at the 15-minute mark of the first period. They were playing better than the score indicated, but coming back against the Hurricanes was a daunting task. As well as having the leagues' lowest goals-against average of 1.67, the Hurricanes were also 5-0 this season when scoring first.
To the Blackhawks' credit, they found a way back into the game.
Matthew Highmore drew a hooking penalty with 3:33 (shoutout Pat Foley) remaining in the first that set up an eventual power-play goal by Philipp Kurashev.
The power play has been stellar this season, but most of the goals have come from the team's first unit. Tonight it was the second unit of Nicolas Beaudin, Dominik Kubalik, Pius Suter, and Kurashev connecting on a tic-tac-toe tap-in goal. Kurashev now has four goals on the season and is tied with Suter for most goals by a rookie league-wide.
The game was headed to its first intermission when Patrick Kane determined it was showtime instead. Starting with a defensive zone face-off with 30 seconds remaining in the period, the trio of Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat, and Showtime himself made their way up the ice. Kane picked up an errant puck in the high slot and whistled one by Hurricanes' goaltender James Reimer to tie the game at two apiece.
The second period saw match tighter play between the two teams. The Blackhawks generated just nine shots on goal in the middle frame but played well defensively to hold the Hurricanes to ten attempts. After two periods, the Blackhawks were credited with 18 scoring chances for and 16 against.
Leaning on Lankinen
Early in the third period, the Hurricanes scored off an offensive zone face-off to take a 3-2 lead. This was just the second time in seven starts rookie netminder Kevin Lankinen had given up more than two goals in a game.
Lankinen was once again stellar for the Blackhawks tonight and made 16 saves in the third period alone to give his team a chance to tie it and send the game to overtime.
Fortunately, the Blackhawks playing in front of Lankinen held up their end of the deal.
Strome and Cat Connect
With under seven minutes remaining in the game, Kubalik used his big frame to shield the puck in the corner and cycled it low to DeBrincat. The Cat circled around the back of the net and found Strome in the low slot to tie the game at three.
After a scoreless overtime, the Hurricanes' Andrei Svechnikov scored the only goal of the shootout to give his team a 4-3 victory. The Blackhawks are now 3-4-4 on the season.
Alex DeBrincat recorded two primary assists in his first game back in the lineup after missing the previous four games due to being on the NHL's COVID-19 Protocol List. He logged a team-high four shots on goal and played 21:59 of ice time. The Blackhawks desperately need 5v5 offense, and DeBrincat provided it tonight.
The combination of youth and veteran players the Blackhawks' management assembled this past offseason is starting to mesh. Players such as Philipp Kurashev and Brandon Hagel are finding success playing alongside more experienced players up front. Meanwhile on the back end, Nicolas Beaudin played over 20 minutes for the first time in his career.
What's On Tap Next?
The Blackhawks and Hurricanes meet again on Thursday, February 4th at 7:00 PM CT. Tune in to the Four Feathers Podcast for further Blackhawks postgame analysis.