You couldn’t get off to much of a better start than the Blackhawks did on Saturday night. Connor Bedard‘s first shot on goal in the United Center went in. But after that incredible moment, the opening 20 minutes was a hot mess. Six total penalties called, both teams scoring once on the advantage. Vegas out-shot the Blackhawks only 9-6 in the first period even though they had three full power plays.
The Blackhawks were working hard and generating some good chances in the early going of the second period after killing a penalty but couldn’t get one to go in. Vegas got the next goal at 7:30 into the second on a shot that slipped through Arvid Söderblom and trickled into the net to break the tie. Reese Johnson tied the game 80 seconds later, redirecting a Connor Murphy shot into the net. After 40 minutes the score had doubled but was still tied.
Nicolas Roy scored to give Vegas a 3-2 lead just 14 seconds into the third period. After a second straight ugly power play ended worthlessly, Vegas scored their fourth goal of the night on what appeared to be a wrap-around pass attempt that went off Murphy’s skate. Vegas added a fifth goal as the wheels fell off late in the third period. Paul Cotter was left all alone about ten feet in front of the net and ripped the easy shot home. Corey Perry scored on the rush inside the final minute to pull the Blackhawks back within two.
This game wasn’t nearly as bad as the final score might indicate; the Blackhawks were right there for about 53 minutes. But this is the kind of pull-away performance defending champions do to young, rebuilding teams. Another learning experience for the kids.
Star 1: Connor Bedard
Look… sometimes you just need a sign from above that things are going to be okay. After a stirring tribute to Rocky Wirtz before the game began, the Blackhawks got a power play 85 seconds into the action. And right off the faceoff, Bedard ripped home his first *real* goal on home ice. After failing to register a shot attempt in Denver on Thursday night, Bedard got the Blackhawks on the board immediately tonight. He also won three of five faceoffs and skated 5:14 in the first period.
Bedard skated 11:23 and had won three of seven faceoffs after two periods. He finished winning half of his 12 faceoffs and with just the one shot on net.
Star 2: Reese Johnson
The dude scores a goal, he gets to be one of the game’s stars for me. But, more than that, Reese spent a big portion — almost half of his ice time in the first two periods — killing penalties. And he did it well. he did the whole wrecking-ball thing, playing a physical game on the fourth line the entire night, but his added value on PK duty is huge and scoring a goal is enormous.
Star 3: Lukas Reichel
I think this might have been Reichel’s best start-to-finish game of the young season. He won five of seven faceoffs in the first period. Late in the second period, Reichel got absolutely hammered (well behind the play without a penalty called I might add) and then took another hard hit when he got to his feet. He appeared to be in some discomfort on the bench after the shift, but he had a really good second period. Reichel won 6 of 10 faceoffs in 10:28 on ice through two periods. His speed was effective and noticeable the entire night and he was playing confidently. He won 8 of 14 total faceoffs in the game.