CHICAGO - On a night to remember his great career, Stan Mikita couldn't have been any prouder.
A two-time Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL's leading scorer, the Blackhawks paid tribute to the late Hall of Famer by showcasing the best of their offense over 60 minutes. This all came after a pre-game ceremony in honor of Mikita, who died in August at 78.
Unfortunately, their opponents did too and flipped a very early script for Joel Quenneville's team in their home opener.
The Maple Leafs beat the Blackhawks to the punch in overtime, scoring 19 seconds into the extra session to knock off the hosts 7-6 in a wild 60:19 of hockey in the first regular season game of the 2018-2019 campaign at the United Center.
That was the end of an offense-filled 1:24 of regulation, as the Blackhawks tied the game, lost the lead, then tied it again in the short span to force overtime. But Morgan Rielly's game-winner past Cam Ward shortly into overtime sent Toronto home as winners as the Blackhawks lost for the first time in their first three games, two of which included extra-time wins.
Jonathan Toews opened the game with his fifth goal of the young season and Alex DeBrincat followed with his second to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead. But Toronto countered with three-straight at the end of the first and early in the second to grab the advantage. John Hayden got it even with a goal 5:37 into the second period, but the second of the night for John Tavares made it 4-3 at the end of two periods.
Brandon Manning struck for the tying goal just 2:20 into the third period, but Tavares completed his hat trick 7:09 later to give the Maple Leafs the lead. It stayed quiet till the final two minutes when the offenses went a bit crazy, starting with Patrick Kane's goal to even the game at five with 1:24 to go. Auston Matthews used a fortunate bounce to give Toronto the lead back just 22 seconds later, but Kane answered that tally with a second goal with 29 seconds to go in the period.
The Blackhawks actually had one more rush before the end of regulation but couldn't get a shot to the back of the net, forcing the game to overtime. Rielly then beat Ward just seconds into the extra session, putting an end to an entertaining yet disappointing night to open a home season and pay tribute to a legend.