In Brian Elliott’s worst nightmare he probably sees three Blackhawks breaking in alone on him with nary a defenseman in sight.
Unfortunately for the Blues goaltender, he was wide awake when the line of Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland got behind pinching St. Louis blueliners during the first period of Tuesday night’s game at the United Center. A give-and-go between Kane and Sharp resulted in the Hawks’ first goal and they carried the momentum to a 3-2 victory over the Blues in front of a crowd of 21,455 on hand to witness the first game of the season at the UC.
The win kept the Hawks unbeaten in three games this season and gave themselves—and the Blues—a good measuring stick for how the Central Division rivals stack up this season. It is the first time the Hawks have won their first three games in a season since the 1972-73 campaign.
In addition to Kane’s highlight-reel goal, Brent Seabrook and Viktor Stalberg also scored and Corey Crawford was solid in goal as the Hawks handed the Blues—playing the second of back-to-back games–their first loss of the season.
Crawford entered the third period with a shutout but Andy McDonald scored to end the bid. The Hawks did not record a shutout all last season and haven’t had one since Crawford pulled off the feat March 23, 2011 against the Panthers.
Elliott was good early on when the Hawks controlled the pace and had four odd-man rushes in the opening period alone against a gambling Blues defense. The goalie twice denied Patrick Sharp on terrific chances and also gloved a good opportunity by Bryan Bickell.
The Hawks finally broke through in the first on the three-on-none rush that ended with Kane taking a return pass from Sharp and sliding a backhander into a gaping net.
At the other end, Crawford was sharp and made a sparkling stop of Blues rookie sensation Vladimir Tarasenko, who entered Tuesday’s contest with three goals and two assists in his first two career games. Tarasenko pounced on a rebound to the right of Crawford and sent a shot toward the net that the lunging goalie batted away.
Midway through the second, the Hawks converted while on the power play to make it 2-0. With St. Louis defenseman Ian Cole in the box for interference, Jonathan Toews found Duncan Keith cruising into the attack zone and fed him the puck. Keith’s slap shot hit the skate of Seabrook en route to the goal and slid through Elliott’s pads.
Early in the third, Stalberg put the game out of reach for the Blues when he ripped a shot from the right circle that got by Elliott to the glove side to make it 3-0.
St. Louis did make a game of it as T.J. Oshie followed McDonald’s goal with one of his own, but the Hawks held on despite a last-minute flurry by the Blues.