CHICAGO – The Washington Capitals did everything they could to spoil the party for the Chicago Blackhawks as they raised their 2013 Stanley Cup Championship Banner, but in the end the Hawks won on the first night of their title defense by a score of 6-4 as the scoring went back and forth all game long.
Both teams seemed like they were in midseason form but that could come back to the fact that the two teams would have faced each other three times in the last 10 days with the Hawks winning both their preseason encounters in extra time.
The red carpet was rolled out as the player entered the United Center. Chairman Rocky Wirtz came out to roaring cheers as he thanked his staff, coaches and fans. He also recognized the team, “I want to thank the guys here that are behind me in the locker room, our team. What amazing gifted athletes they are, and the love of the game they have. It took blood, sweat, and guts to bring home two Stanley Cups in four years. “
Chicago got on the board first as great forechecking kept the puck in. Playing in his first game in the NHL, center Joakim Nordstrom was able to block the puck with his body against the boards to keep it in the zone. Marcus Kruger battled for the puck to send it back to Niklas Hjalmarsson who fired it to the net giving a rebound to Brandon Bollig giving him a big fat opening to the back of the net 4:06 into the game. It was Bollig’s first regular season goal and point in the NHL.
Just days after carrying the Olympic flame in Greece in preparation for the Sochi Winter Games, Alex Ovechkin was able to tie the game up the game on the power play with the assists coming from centers Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom at 10:42.
But just 24 seconds later with the Hawks on the rush, Jonathan Toews tried to pass the puck across to Nick Leddy coming in at center only to have the puck fly up. Patrick Kane reached up and grabbed the puck and settled it on the ice and skated to the near dot and found an opening high on Braden Holtby to give the Hawks a one goal lead after the first.
The Washington Capitals knotted up the score as they relieved the Hawks of the puck in their defensive zone causing a two-on-one rush with Jason Chimera and Grabovski with the latter holding onto the puck and getting the puck in on Corey Crawford a little over halfway through the middle period.
The seesaw continued as the Hawks did something that they were weak at last season in scoring on the power play. The Hawks drew everyone into the offensive zone and settle the puck to control the pace. Marian Hossa, seeing live action for the first time this season played touch with Brandon Saad with Hossa taking a shot causing a rebound to defenseman Brent Seabrook who got the puck into the big hole in the net at 14:32.
In the second, the Capitals started the period with great puck possession but the Hawks ended the second outshooting the Capitals 18-6 to lead the shot totals 26-19 after two stanzas.
Andrew Shaw was given a tripping penalty at the 20:00 minute mark at the end of the second period putting out a four-on-four situation to start the third period which gave enough time for the Capitals to score on the power play tying the score again 59 seconds in. Ovechkin drew all the players towards him at the far circle allowing him to pass it across to Mike Green who was able to maneuver the puck diagonally across Crawford and through under his stick hand.
Washington took their first lead as the Hawks allowed their third power play goal at the 5:16 mark as Grabovski notched his second goal deflecting a slap shot from the point, with the assists going to Green and Backstrom.
The battle of the gunfighters continued at the Madhouse on Madison as the Saad carried the puck across the blue line, went towards the net, backhanded a pass to Michel Rozsival who in turn passed across back to Saad who was right in front of the net to use the backhander again to put another tie in the game at four goals a piece with just under eight minutes gone in the period.
The Hawks took the lead again as they kept the puck in the offensive zone. Johnny Oduya received a cross ice pass from Saad and slapped the unsettled puck in towards Holtby that knuckled pass hitting the goalie’s glove but rolled on in at 13:53.
Just as he played well early, Nordstrom made a rookie mistake and cleared the puck the length of the ice and out of the playing area to give Washington a two-man advantage for a minute and twenty-six seconds. But the Hawks persevered and held the Capitals.
The Hawks were given the final goal as Hossa was pulled down with the puck by Green with the empty net.
Holtby stopped 29 of 34 shots while Crawford did one better going 28 of 32 for the win.
Three Stars of the Game
Third Star – Chicago Blackhawks Defenseman Johnny Oduya with the game winner
Second Star – Washington Capital Center Michal Grabovski with the hat trick and assist
First Star – Chicago Blackhawks Left Wing Brandon Saad with a goal and two assists.