Blackhawks Fall to Flames in OT
Antti Raanta’s return to the site of his first NHL victory Tuesday night didn’t produce the same fond memories.
The Blackhawks goaltender gave up four goals in the Flames’ first 15 shots at the Saddledome through the first and second periods before being pulled in favor of Corey Crawford.
The Hawks weren’t a big help, but they still were able to stay even with the Flames through two periods, before losing 5-4 in overtime.
Marian Hossa scored twice in the first two periods for the Hawks, and Patrick Kane and Ben Smith added goals.
Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan each had a goal for the Flames and Mikael Backlund scored twice, including one short-handed midway through the second period that prompted Raanta’s removal. Raanta had earned his first NHL victory in Calgary on Nov. 27.
The Hawks were looking for a refresher in the first game of a six-game western swing, and two players who also were looking for a new opportunity were forwards Bryan Bickell and Brandon Pirri. Both returned to the lineup after absences.
Bickell figured that Hawks coach Joel Quenneville wanted to make him a little angry Sunday when Bickell was benched against the Jets.
“It was frustrating, but as my game has been going, I feel like I more deserved to sit out,” Bickell said. “He wants to get me angry and mad on the ice and bring my physical game to get me more in the game. It shows an example to myself and the locker room that no matter how many years (you have) as a player, you can still find your way out of the lineup. I know I haven’t deserved to be (in it), but hopefully I can turn it around on this road trip.”
Bickell’s ice time had dwindled lately, and entering Tuesday he hadn’t played more than 10 minutes in a game since Jan. 11. He played on a line with Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad that was on the ice for the Flames’ third goal.
“He needs to be physically involved in the game, more direct in his play,” Quenneville said. “He has to be stronger in the puck area. … He has some speed to his game. He has some physicality and some size. Just contribute in that way and he’ll be adding to our team game and he’ll feel better about himself as well.”
While Michal Handzus took a rest day, Pirri was recalled Monday from AHL Rockford and played in his first Hawks game since Dec. 3. He spent time centering the second line with Kris Versteeg and Kane.
“He’s an offensive-minded player who needs to play with offensive guys, so hopefully me, him and Kaner will be good for us,” Versteeg said. “We played a few games together before and had some success, so we’ll keep rolling from the times we have played together. Hopefully we’ll keep gaining our confidence and the chemistry.”
Pirri has six goals and five assists in 24 games this season, but Quenneville said he wants to see Pirri progress in his defensive game.
“Being a full 200-foot player is a big part of everyone’s game,” Pirri said. “That’s something I went to Rockford to work on. If I’m doing what I can every game to stay consistent, that’s going to help keep me up here a little bit longer.”