The Blackhawks’ first two periods against Calgary on Tuesday were pretty forgettable.
On a night when the Cubs were creating offensive fireworks in Cleveland, the Blackhawks weren’t mustering much on the United Center ice. That is, until the third period. Then, they did a whole lot with a little.
Artem Anisimov had the game-winning goal and an assist and Corey Crawford was stellar in stopping 33 of 34 shots as the Blackhawks beat the Flames 5-1. The Blackhawks have now won four of their last five and have collected points in seven of their last eight games.
Despite some rough points this season, and another slow start on Tuesday, the Blackhawks are tied with the Minnesota Wild with a Central Division-leading 13 points. Anisimov is now on a career-high, eight-game point streak (seven goals, six assists)
“There are some positive signs in there,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The penalty killing is getting better, a couple lines getting better and a little bit more balance in our rotation. I still think we need to keep getting better.”
Sure, but the Blackhawks are nevertheless collecting points. And once they got the lead on Anisimov’s goal, a beautiful tape-to-tape pass from Kane that Anisimov pushed past Brian Elliott, the Blackhawks didn’t relinquish it. They scored four goals on seven shots in that third period, including a dazzling one by Tyler Motte in which the rookie bulldozed his way to his third of the season.
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“[Brent Seabrook] made a great play in the corner getting the puck up the wing, [Nick Schmaltz] made a better play chipping it by their d-man,” Motte said. “The bench was yelling, ‘speed,’ so I just tried to take it wide, happened to get the puck on the weak side of the net there and slide one in.”
And Crawford was once again the reason the Blackhawks were in a close game. Crawford saw 26 of those 34 shots through the first two periods. The Flames were clogging things up in front of him, leading to deflections and bounces that Crawford was nevertheless able to corral.
“Early they were getting pucks and traffic and tips and a couple of them hit me in the head there,” Crawford said. “But I think it’s just a matter of being on top and our guys are on the side there to clear rebounds and get rid of anything else.”
The Blackhawks didn’t play their best game on Tuesday but they still won. Credit Crawford for keeping them in there with his early work. Credit the Blackhawks for taking advantage of the opportunities they got late, when the Flames were trying to get back into the game. The outings aren’t always pretty, but getting points nonetheless.
“Today we find a way to win the game,” Anisimov said. “Obviously we played not great. But the PK is working, the power play was working today. Just clicking, you know? Just stay together.”