The combination was fantastic from the start, the very skilled Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane and, as Panarin called big center Artem Anisimov, “the missing piece.”
When it went a little quiet, coach Joel Quenneville broke them up, sending a deserving Panarin to the top line. But that didn’t work so well, so the score-happy trio was reassembled heading into Sunday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Guess how that turned out?
Patrick Kane had a a goal and three assists, Panarin had two goals and an assist and Anisimov had a goal and an assist as the Blackhawks beat the Oilers 4-2.
Corey Crawford had a strong rebound game, stopping 34 of 36 shots. Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson had an assist each.
And on offense it was another show by the Blackhawks’ second line. While the Blackhawks would certainly like their other lines to join in that trend, on Sunday, they happily took the second line’s contributions.
“We wanted to try him with Jonny [Toews], see how that line would look together. It was just OK. And that group together has been fun to watch,” Quenneville said of the second line. “I’m sure they’re happy to be back together again and got it going right off the hop; so good night for that line. They continue to be, a lot of nights, the only form of production we’re getting.”
Panarin’s goals, both of which came in the first period, were his first since Oct. 10 against the New York Islanders. Kane is now on a 10-game point streak, the longest of this young NHL season. Anisimov garnered his 200th career point when he assisted on Kane’s goal – the game winner – and added a power-play goal with 5.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
“Yeah, we have some chemistry,” Kane said. “I think all three of us, the way we want to play, is very similar. We do a good job of supporting the puck, hanging onto the puck, trying to make plays. We went stale there before they broke us up there. It was nice to get back together and have a good night.”
And when the second line wasn’t doing its work, Crawford was doing his. After giving up six goals against St. Louis and three first-period goals against New Jersey – he was pulled after those first 20 minutes – Crawford was strong again. He was at his best in the second period when the Oilers, determined to erase the 2-0 lead Panarin had set in the first period, fired 22 shots at him. He stopped them all.
Crawford usually likes those busy periods.
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“I mean, when you're stopping 'em, yeah,” Crawford said with a laugh. “That many shots, you know, you don't really want too many scoring chances. You give too many, teams are going to take advantage. But that was a good one. That was a good one for me to get back into it, and that was a big win for us.”
The Blackhawks didn’t play their greatest game of hockey on Sunday night but they found a way to take one at home, where they’ve been very successful this season. Crawford did his part on one end and the successful second line did its on the other.
“It kind of seemed like eventually they would be back together at some point,” Crawford said. “That was an awesome game by those three and another big goal by Kaner. It just seems like he comes up with those every other game or so, and we definitely needed that one tonight, that goal by him.
“Again, the team, they came back after we get the lead. They kind of come back and make it interesting,” Crawford said. “But after two tough losses, that's a good win for us.”