The Blackhawks, including a healthy Patrick Sharp, defeated the New Jersey Devils by way of a shootout last night (Tuesday) in New Jersey 3-2. Besides the return of Patrick Sharp, who had been out for almost five weeks, the game featured a pair of USHL alumni goaltenders in Keith Kinkaid (Des Moines Buccaneers) for the Devils and Scott Darling (Indiana Ice) for the Blackhawks. Darling was making only his fifth NHL start, while Kinkaid was making his first career NHL start.
The Devils struck first late in the first period when Jordin Tootoo took advantage of a Blackhawks’ turnover and buried a wrist shot to the stick side of Darling. The goal was the longtime Nashville Predator’s second goal of the season. A lone assist was credited to Steve Bernier.
After a point blank save by Kinkaid on Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks fought back when Blackhawks’ power forward Bryan Bickell netted a wrist shot while on an uneven rush at 10:55 of the second period. The play was set up nicely by Patrick Sharp, who was credited with his seventh assist of the season.
With the score tied 1-1 at the start of the third period, it was the Devils who would take the lead again early in the period when Stephen Gionta batted a puck out of the air and into the Blackhawks’ net. The impressive goal was Gionta’s second of the season.
Highlights from the remainder of the third period included the Devils’ – and former Blackhawk – Martin Havlat’s successful deke on Darling; however, Havlat got nothing but iron on the resulting shot. Minutes later, Kinkaid made a great save on the Blackhawks’ Kris Versteeg.
Still trailing 2-1 with 3:31 to play in regulation, the Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith jumped on rebound off a shot by Marian Hossa and buried it into a practically wide open net. The goal was Keith’s six of the season and tied the game at 2-2.
The score would stay locked at 2-2 throughout the remainder of regulation and an overtime period of four-on-four hockey. The Blackhawks were unable to convert on a four-on-three advantage in the extra time when 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr, who leads the Devils in scoring (five goals, 12 assists), was called for hooking with two minutes to play, so the game headed for a shootout.
The Blackhawks performed flawlessly in the shootout with Darling making saves on Havlat and Jagr, while Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both converted on their attempts. Toews beat Kinkaid with a deke to the backhand, while Kane fired a snap shot to the stick side.
With the victory, the Blackhawks extended their current win streak to seven games and have jumped back into first place of the Central Division with 39 points. Nashville and St. Louis trail with 38 points each.
The Blackhawks (19-8-1) return to action on Thursday, Dec. 11th when they take on the Boston Bruins (15-12-1) in Boston at 6:00 p.m. CT. The game will be televised locally on Comcast Sports Net and nationally on NHL Network.
– The Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews (puck) and Daniel Carcillo (stick) both took shots to mouth, but both returned to action after receiving medical treatment in the locker room.
– The Blackhawks’ Joakim Nordstrom has been reassigned to the team’s AHL affiliate in Rockford. Nordstrom has two assists in ten games with the Blackhawks, but more importantly, has looked solid in his limited ice time.
– The Blackhawks’ also sent Jeremy Morin down to the Rockford IceHogs on a “conditioning assignment.” Morin has been a healthy scratch for the last eight games and has registered no points in 15 games with the Hawks this season. The Blackhawks can keep Morin on a conditioning loan for up to 14 days.