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Maybe it was the home whites. Maybe it was the packed house at the United Center. Maybe it was the Toronto Maple Leafs playing for the second straight night. Whatever “it” was, the Chicago Blackhawks used it to score a 5-3 win on an emotional night.
The Blackhawks had a solid start to the game. They took advantage of Toronto’s early irresponsibility with the puck to create some pressure and scoring chances. Patrick Kane started the scoring with his third goal in the last four periods. The momentum was killed when Andreas Athanasiou took a slashing penalty. It took John Tavares all of nine seconds of the ensuing power play to even the score with his 25th goal of the season.
Kane took over the second period by scoring two goals to complete his 11th career hat trick. The Maple Leafs answered back with a goal from Noel Acciari, who was acquired from the St. Louis Blues on Friday. Mitchell Marner tied the game midway through the third period by using a slick backhand to net his 20th goal of the season.
The game remained even for only four minutes. Cole Guttman scored his first NHL by streaking up the wing and blowing the puck right past Samsanov for the game-winning tally. Max Domi capped off his four-point night with a late empty-net goal. Kane had the lone assist for his fourth point as well.
Patrick Kane’s Stock Continues to Rise
Before Sunday’s game, Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson said that a decision from Kane on whether he will waive his no-movement clause is coming “soon.” Tick tock. On the ice, Kane was coming off his first two-goal game in nearly a full calendar year and looked to build off that in the rematch with Toronto.
We saw a vintage Kane snipe midway through the first period. He trailed the play entering the zone, took a drop pass from Domi, and then picked the top corner above goaltender Ilya Samasov’s left shoulder.
Kane didn’t wait nearly a year to have a two-goal game again; he waited less than a full period. He netted his second tally of the night by beating Samsanov to the near post. Less than three minutes later, he banked the puck off the Toronto netminder’s back side and over the goal line. The play was initially waived off on the ice, but the goal hat trick goal was confirmed after a brief video review.
After his five-goal explosion over the past two games, Kane is now tied with Taylor Raddysh and Jonathan Toews for second on the team in goals with 14. More importantly, he is showing the rest of the league that he can still play at the high level we are used to seeing. All the talk of his low production and hip injury has been quiet for the past three days.
Another Solid Outing for Jaxson Stauber
Luke Richardson let us know Sunday afternoon that goaltender Alex Stalock is progressing. He had been skating the whole time the Blackhawks were in Canada and is hopeful of joining the team on the next road trip, which begins Wednesday in Dallas.
If Stalock returns to the team next week, tonight may have been Jaxson Stauber’s last start with the Blackhawks this season. After becoming the first netminder to win his first three starts in franchise history, he struggled a bit in his previous start in Montreal on Tuesday. He gave four goals and 31 shots in a 4-0 loss to the Canadiens.
The start was much better than when the Maple Leafs scored nine seconds into the game on Wednesday. Stauber’s only blemish in the opening frame was Tavares’ power-play goal, which came off a redirection during a set play after the faceoff.
Stauber was challenged right off the bat in the middle frame by using his glove to stop a Michael Bunting breakaway in the opening minute. He also slammed the door shut on an Auston Matthews chance from in close during a late-period power play. The Acciari goal was not one you could pin on the young goalie. Former Blackhawk David Kampf made an excellent play to grab the puck out of midair, settle it down, and flip it over to Acciari.
The Marner goal came off a play that showed off his skill and speed. Morgan Rielly made a long dump-in pass from beyond center ice. Marner was first to the puck, beating Connor Murphy and Jack Jackson, then showed off his silky mitts to beat Stauber.
Toronto pushed back immediately after Guttman’s goal, and Stauber was forced into action often. The 23-year-old stood tall against one of the best offensive teams in the league. In the end, he made 32 saves to earn his fourth NHL victory.
Keeping an Eye on the Trade Market
This afternoon, Toews made a statement about his health, and it was made clear that he won’t be back in the lineup any time soon. While his health is most important, this also means he will not be a trade chip for Davidson.
Now that we know Toews will not be traded before the March 3 deadline, let’s look at some other players who could be on the move.
Like Kane, Domi’s trade value is going up with his play of late. He had assists on all three of Kane’s goals before scoring into the empty. He has six helpers in his last three games and leads the Blackhawks with 15 goals, 27 assists, and 42 points.
After taking the penalty that led to the first Maple Leafs’ goal, Athanasiou had a solid game. His most noticeable play came early in the third period when he set up a scoring chance for Sam Lafferty. He finished his night with
Jake McCabe had a typical night for what we expect out of the rugged defenseman. He had five hits and seven blocked shots to go with his takeaway and plus-2 rating in 20:14 of ice time.
Lafferty got some high praise from Richardson after the game. The Blackhawks bench boss put him out there against the Auston Matthews line for his speed and defense. Matthews did have five shots on goal but finished the game with no points and was a minus-2.
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