CHICAGO – Considering the offensive talent for both the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks, Wednesday night's game between the two had the makings of a shootout.
Thanks to some razor-sharp goaltending by Chicago's Marty Turco and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, that's exactly what happened. After ending regulation and overtime deadlocked 1-1 on goals by Chicago's Viktor Stalberg and Vancouver's Daniel Sedin, the game went to a shootout.
All three Chicago shooters scored against Luongo in the shootout, and the Hawks earned two points with a 2-1 win in front of 20,859 at United Center.
Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler each beat Turco in the first two rounds, but the Hawks' goalie forced a shot by Mikael Samuelsson wide left in the third round to end it. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane each beat Luongo for the Hawks – with Kane's just barely sneaking between the pads and sliding over the goal line.
"That's a great sight to see, but more than anything it was just a solid game all the way around against a hungry, aggressive team that had a lot to play for tonight," said Turco, who improved on the 2.74 goals-against average he brought into the game by making 36 saves – including eight in OT. "It was good one and we're kind of streaking."
Indeed they are, as the win made the Blackhawks (5-2-1) undefeated in their last four games – with wins in five of their last six since scoring just one point in the season's first two contests. Chicago, the defending Stanley Cup champion, now has 11 points and is in first place of both the Central Division and Western Conference standings – three ahead of Dallas, Colorado and Nashville.
Turco is streaking, too. He's won four straight starts and has a sterling .944 save percentage in those games – stopping 136 of 144 shots. Chicago was outshot 37-32 Wednesday night.
"It wasn't the prettiest game, but two points are two points," said Hossa, whose seven-game point streak was snapped despite getting a couple of good scoring chances late. "We grind until the end, (got) a shootout win, two points and we're happy with it."
As for that scoring streak coming to an end?
"It's time to start a new one," Hossa said, laughing.
For Luongo and the Canucks (2-3-2), it was a big point to get despite ultimately losing. After being dominated in Minnesota 6-2 on Tuesday night, Vancouver – and especially Luongo -- needed a solid performance to get back on track.
That's exactly what happened despite both teams having two players among the League's top-six scoring leaders. Luongo stopped 31 of 32 shots, including one on a Hossa breakaway in OT, and he made Canucks coach Alain Vigneault look good for going back to him so quick.
"He's a proud player and a real competitor, and that's what competitors do," Vigneault said. "He (bounced back) and the rest of our team knew we weren't good enough yesterday. We all said we're going to come here and work hard, and we did."
While disappointed in not getting two points, Luongo was pleased overall.
"I wasn't satisfied with myself after (Tuesday) night's game and it was nice to be able to get right back in there right away," he said. "These are the type of road games that we need to be playing if we're going to win on the road. They're not going to be run-and-gun blowout games. They're always going to be tight games that you're going to have to fight to win like tonight in overtime or a shootout."
The game was a rematch of last season's Western Conference Semifinal series, won 4-2 by Chicago on its road to the Cup. Just like a couple of those playoff games, defense and goaltending took center stage instead of offensive fireworks.
Stalberg's second goal of the season gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead with 37.7 seconds left in the first period. After settling the puck on a feed by center Jake Dowell, Stalberg blasted it under Luongo's trapper.
The lead stood up until Daniel Sedin tied it 1-1 for Vancouver at 1:00 of the third on a power play. He tapped in a puck jarred loose in the crease during a scrum by the right goal post. The puck appeared to be trapped between Turco's skate and the post, but was poked out and slid between Brent Seabrook's legs into the blue paint.
Sedin quickly poked it home for his seventh goal of the season. That was it for scoring in regulation and OT, as the game turned out to be a reminder that stats aren't always a portent of things to come.
"It was just one of those defensive games," said Hossa, who finished with three shots. "It was up and down and lots of pucks in the neutral zone, but not as many clean chances. At the end, obviously I had two breakaways and didn't score, but otherwise I think both teams played pretty good defensively."