Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the United Center on Sunday:
1. Another entertaining game between two Original Six franchises
The last time the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs met at the United Center — on Oct. 7, 2018 — they combined for 13 goals and had an epic third period in which Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews had a memorable celebration-off. The Maple Leafs won 7-6 in overtime.
It would've been difficult to top the entertainment level of that game, but this one got very close. The two teams combined for five goals in the first period and nine goals total, with three of them coming in the final eight minutes of regulation. Both teams like to play fast and you can't ignore the skill level on each side.
"Similar game last year in Toronto, too, where we had a big lead and they came back and made it a game at the end," Kane said. "I think both teams want to play offense, you see that it's probably going to be a high-scoring game so guys get excited."
2. A four-goal first period by the Blackhawks
For the third straight game, the Blackhawks scored the first two goals and gave themselves a cushion for the rest of the game, even though it got tight in the end.
Alex DeBrincat, Kane and Dylan Strome combined for two goals and six assists in the opening frame as the Blackhawks took a 4-1 lead into intermission. Kirby Dach scored his second career NHL goal and Jonathan Toews netted his third of the season on the power play, also. It was the perfect start.
"Certainly much more entertaining, exciting finish than we would've liked it to be," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I liked obviously much of the first two periods — we did a lot of good things, we scored on our chances, we made them pay when we got opportunity, whether it was on the power play or in transition. Of course, would've liked to see us close out the game more under control."
3. Robin Lehner shines again
We're running out of things to say about Lehner, who has been the MVP of the Blackhawks this season. He faced 57 shots on goal, including 26 in the third period, and tied a season-high with 53 saves for a save percentage of .930.
The Blackhawks gave up only four high-danger chances at 5-on-5, but the Maple Leafs generated 41 scoring chances total and Lehner did everything he could to help his team pick up two points.
"Geez, he was unbelievable there," Kane said. "From the second on, he really made some unbelievable saves. You have a 4-1 lead, you feel pretty good about that, but we've got to play better in front of him, we've got to keep playing, controlling the puck, making plays, kind of like we were in the first 20, and not step off the gas."
4. Nylander vs. Nylander, Part III
For the third time in their NHL careers, brothers Alex and William Nylander went head-to-head, but it was the first meeting between the two with Alex in a Blackhawks uniform. William got the better of his younger brother twice when Alex was in Buffalo, so Alex was looking for revenge.
And he got it.
While William scored twice for the Maple Leafs, it was Alex and the Blackhawks who came away with the two points that each brother was looking for.
"It's always fun to play against my brother," Alex said.
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