When you are playing bottom feeders like the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators back-to-back, you better get four points. After beating the Oilers 4-1 on Sunday, the Chicago Blackhawks absolutely dismantled the Senators 8-2 tonight.
The first period was not unlike many other periods for the Blackhawks this season. They got a ton of shots on goal, 17 in total, but the overwhelming majority of them came from the perimeter and caused no serious threat to goaltender Craig Anderson.
However, the 17th and final shot of the period found its way into the Ottawa net and ended a 27-game goal drought for Richard Panik at 18:51 of the first period. Michal Kempny’s shot from the point was blocked, but the puck came to Panik in the high slot where he flung the puck through heavy traffic and in behind Anderson. Jan Rutta had the secondary assist on Panik’s sixth goal of the season and his first since October 21.
Patrick Sharp scored the first of seven combined second period goals just over five minutes in to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead. Patrick Kane’s cross-ice pass was slowed down, but Sharp waited for it at the top of the left circle and fired a long wrist shot that beat Anderson to the short side for his third goal in the last four games. Rookie David Kampf was credited with the secondary assist.
Nick Schmaltz scored the first of four power play goals for the Blackhawks three minutes later to extend the lead to 3-0. Anderson stopped Jordan Oesterle’s shot from the point, but Schmaltz crashed the net and backhanded the rebound home by going five-hole. Kane picked up another assist on the play as well.
Moments after Anton Forsberg stopped Colin White on an odd-man rush, Jonathan Toews continued his hot streak to make the game 4-0 at the 9:53 mark. This goal was very similar to the previous one, except this time it was Toews who put home a rebound off of an Oesterle shot from the point. Duncan Keith had the second helper on the captain’s 13th goal of the year.
Anderson was pulled for Mike Condon after the Toews goal and the Senators responded by finding their way onto the scoreboard 42 seconds later. Rutta tried to clear a rebound but he put the puck right on the stick of Mark Stone who backhanded the puck between the near post and Forsberg to cut the lead to 4-1.
The Senators cut the lead down to 4-2 about six minutes later as Stone’s cross-ice pass hit off the body of Derick Brassard and found its way past Forsberg.
Just when Blackhawks fans were starting to feel nervous, Schmaltz answered with another power play goal 54 seconds later. Once again, Schmaltz was rewarded by going to the net and slapping home the rebound off a Sharp shot or his 12th goal of the year. Kane picked up yet another point with the secondary assist.
Rutta made up for his gaff on the Senators first goal with a power play goal of his own in the final minute of the second period. Kane found Rutta at the top of the left circle where he one-timed an absolute cannon blast over the glove had of Condon. Anton Forsberg was credited with his first career NHL point with secondary assist on Rutta’s fourth goal of the year.
The Blackhawks did not take the collective foot off the pedal in final period as Toews added another goal 3:24 into the third. Vinnie Hinostroza jumped on an errant pass and got the puck across to Toews below the left circle where he put the puck up and over Condon and under the crossbar for his 14th tally on the campaign.
Kane finished off his five-point night with the Blackhawks fourth power play goal of the night midway through the third. Schmaltz just missed the hat trick by ringing a shot off the post. Duncan Keith got the rebound and quickly got the puck back to Kane at the right dot where he ripped a one-timer past Condon for his team-high 18th goal.
The Senators are a godawful hockey team, but there has been a lot of good going on of late. Jonathan Toews and the top line are on fire. Patrick Sharp is relevant again. Nick Schmaltz is turning into a very good NHL player. Jordan Oesterle has been a huge edition to the blue line. All of this has led to a 4-1-1 record while Artem Anisimov and Corey Crawford are injured reserve.
The Blackhawks return home to the United Center tomorrow to host the Minnesota Wild, who lost in overtime to the Calgary Flames tonight. The winner of this game will get sole possession of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.