The Chicago Blackhawks are back in first in the central division.
With the Minnesota Wild losing the Washington Capitals 4-2 Wednesday night and a Blackhawks 4-2 win, the Hawks are back on top.
Corey Crawford had 40 saves and remains undefeated against the Montreal Canadiens in regulation in his career. His great performance got the Blackhawks back in first after losing that spot back on January 15th with a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. The Blackhawks are on a roll and will be hard to stop, as usual, come playoff time.
Patrick Kane opened up the scoring at 12:23 into the first period. Artem Anisimov, who got injured at the end of the first period, controlled the puck into the offensive zone and found a trailing Kane for the score. Kane now has 11 goals in his last nine games.
Anisimov was checked into the boards and Canadiens F Alexander Radulov fell on his left leg. He went to holding his left knee right away. He had to be helped to his feet and limped back to the Blackhawks locker room. He did not return.
After the game, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenville called Anisimov’s injury “day to day” and “not serious.” He was in a walking boot after the game which is probably for stability.
The Blackhawks would go up 2-0 at 10:49 in the second period from a blast by Johnny Oduya. Oduya, who was traded for on February 28th, picked up the loose puck by the blue line and found the back of the net. Oduya was acquired from the Dallas Stars back on February 28th to add to the Blackhawks depth at defense. And, he is reunited with former defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. This was a big pairing in the last two championships in Chicago so it was a great job by GM Stan Bowman by putting Oduya back in a red sweater.
The Canadiens were scoreless through two periods Wednesday night. There were plenty of chances but Crawford and the Blackhawks defense were on top of their game. The Blackhawks finished with 31 blocks, which turned out to be a huge factor in tonight’s win.
Just forty-seven seconds into the third period, Artemi Panarin finds the back of the net putting the Hawks up 3-0. With Artem Anisimov leaving the game, rookie Nick Schmaltz become the center on the second line for Panarin and Kane. And it was Schmaltz who found Panarin for his 23rd goal of the season and extended his goal streak to three games.
The Canadiens did not go away and made it a game toward the end of the third period. Paul Byron scored at 12:42 and then Shea Weber scored at 16:32.
But the Canadiens were still down one. And Jonathan Toews was not going to allow them to tie it up. Toews netted the empty net goal, his 18th of the season, at 18:38 to seal the game. With that goal, Toews(269) passed Tony Amonte(268) to move into 7th place on the Blackhawks all-time goal list.
Patrick Kane registered 3 points in Wednesday night’s win (1 G 2 A) and now firmly leads the NHL in points with 76.
The Blackhawks next stop on their three game Canada trip is Ottawa on Thursday. The Senators have won six of their last seven games and are also in a fight to gain the top spot in their division (1 point behind the Canadiens).