When the Blackhawks acquired three forwards in two days, they were looking for a boost in several positions.
They wanted a stronger top-line option. They wanted help on the third and fourth lines. And while they’re still missing some personnel, including one of the players they traded for, they liked their first look with those changes.
Patrick Kane scored his 36th goal of the season and Dennis Rasmussen scored the game winner as the Blackhawks held off the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Sunday afternoon. The victory gives the Blackhawks 83 points and puts them back into first in the Central Division. Dallas, which is idle today, is second with 82 points.
Corey Crawford stopped 28 of 30 for the victory. Jonathan Toews scored a power-play goal and Andrew Ladd, in his first game back with the Blackhawks, added the secondary assist on Toews’ goal.
The Blackhawks wanted to bolster their lineup with recent acquisitions Ladd, Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, who has not arrived intown yet (visa issues). Ladd was on the top line with Toews and Andrew Shaw while Fleischmann settled in with Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Desjardins. The changes did the Blackhawks good: they had as strong a four-line rotation as they have had all season against the league’s best team.
“You could see a couple of lines had a different look. That line with Flash or Fleisch, or whatever you want to call him — I think they call him Flash — and Desi and Teuvo was very effective in a lot of ways," said coach Joel Quenneville. "Laddy gives you some energy and they’ll get better. The second and third periods you could see him getting a little more comfortable and was effective as well. We still have a couple of guys who are missing who can help us, too.”
Those guys would be Weise, Marian Hossa (lower body) and Marcus Kruger (wrist). But let’s focus on today, which was a good day for the Blackhawks — well, once the first period was over, anyway. The Capitals were stellar in the first period, looking faster and stronger than the Blackhawks, who barely had any time in the Capitals’ zone. Marcus Johnansson gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal 6:13 into the game. For all the Capitals’ first-period dominance, however, it wouldn’t show on the scoreboard. Just 31 seconds after Johansson’s goal, Kane scored to tie it 1-1.
From the second period on the Blackhawks looked more like themselves. Toews scored his power-play goal to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead with 1:45 remaining in the second period. Then Richard Panik’s kick pass, which Quenneville called, “one of the best passes we’ve seen all year,” went in the slot to a wide-open Rasmussen, who scored to make it 3-1. It was Rasmussen’s first goal since Dec. 19.
“Yeah, it’s been a while. I try to work hard and create chances but it was really nice to get that goal,” said Rasmussen. “It was a really nice pass. I saw [Panik] had the puck under his skate and I kind of realized he was going to make that play. I’ve seen it done before in practice.”
The Blackhawks were looking for more balance and more of a scoring threat among all four of their lines. Some of their recent acquisitions have already helped in that department. Sure, it was just one game. But it was one game against the league’s best team.
“It felt like a playoff game right from the start,” Crawford said. “I thought we got better as the game went on. They were pretty quick. They got some momentum early but I think with the new guys in the lineup, it seemed like the chemistry kept building throughout the game on the lines they were on.”