By Brian Hamilton
CHICAGO – A particularly deafening ovation from 21,188 in the United Center welcomed the best team in hockey home Tuesday night. But the issue of the moment was where the Blackhawks were headed, as opposed to where they had been or how far they had come.
Stomping through their first dozen games while crisscrossing the map was mere prelude to the opportunity at hand: Seven home games stacked up neatly, and the chance to turn a roaring head start into a massive chasm between the Hawks and everyone chasing them.
“We’re out there prepared for every single game – win or lose, we move on from that one and go to the next one,” captain Jonathan Toews said before the game. “We’ve done well on the road just by playing simple hockey. We have to keep that going during this homestand here.”
The home-cooking was reduced to a simmer by the end of Tuesday night, though, with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ducks at the United Center ending the flawless regulation record thus far in this abbreviated season.
Nick Bonino and Corey Perry beat Corey Crawford while Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad were stopped after Jonathan Toews scored for the Hawks.
Bolstered by a throaty welcome home from the crowd, the Hawks carried the play early in a battle between the Western Conference’s top teams. But Crawford had to rescue his club a little more than midway through the first, after a Brent Seabrook turnover behind the net on a power play.
Suddenly the Hawks netminder had nothing but cold air between him and a Ducks shooter, but Crawford snared a high, fast, point-blank attempt with his glove in a spectacular robbery to keep things scoreless.
No such luck on the next Ducks man advantage. In fact, no luck at all. A rush into the offensive zone led to Ryan Getzlaf flipping a shot into the crease … where it met Seabrook’s blade and bounded past Crawford, an own-goal of sorts making it a 1-0 Hawks deficit early in the second.
The Hawks’ own power-play woes ended just after they showed some fight. Bryan Bickell and Brad Staubitz dropped gloves and Staubitz earned an instigator penalty for it, and seconds later Nick Leddy rocketed home a shot from the point to equalize at 1-1.
Then came Brandon Saad’s superhero act, with the rookie winger taking a faceoff and rushing into the offensive zone, eventually whipping one toward Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth while airborne and creating a mighty commotion in the crease.
After a long video deliberation and no real sight of the puck replays, Saad nevertheless was awarded a score and the Hawks had a 2-1 edge.
Andrew Cogliano beat Crawford at 17:20 of the third to tie the game at 2-2 and force overtime, during which the Ducks killed two power plays.