Zack Smith tallied a pair of goals, and Patrick Kane extended his point streak to eight games with his 998th career point.
The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 at Bell Centre on Wednesday night for their third consecutive victory. The Blackhawks have also won six of their last seven games on the road.
Zack Smith scored two goals, including the game-winner, to double his season total coming into Wednesday. Smith scored both goals in a 2:50 span to give the Blackhawks a multi-goal lead early in the first period.
“I was just jacked after the first one,” Smith said. “After the second one I was like, ‘Jeez, I might have to pinch myself here. Might still be pregame napping’.”
Corey Crawford made 32 saves for the Blackhawks, who move to 22-20-6 on the season. Crawford is 6-0-2 with two shutouts in eight career games in his hometown of Montreal. His save percentage against his native team actually went down despite allowing just one goal.
The Blackhawks came out flying in the opening minutes, which was good to see after they struggled in that department in recent games. For the first time since Jan. 7 against Calgary, the Hawks opened the scoring as Drake Caggiula forced a turnover behind Montreal’s net and set up Zack Smith for an easy goal.
Smith’s 11th shorthanded goal over the last five seasons (2015-16 to present) tied Arizona’s Michael Grabner, Ottawa’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Boston’s Brad Marchand for the most by one player in that span.
Just 2:50 seconds later, Smith doubled the Blackhawks lead off a nifty redirect in front of Canadiens’ goaltender Charlie Lingren. Slater Koekkoek fired a pass in the slot, and Smith did the rest for his fourth goal of the season. Koekkoek has assists in back-to-back games after going pointless in his 10 previous contests.
The Hawks kept their foot on the gas pedal for the remainder of the period, but they were unable to add to their lead. Dominik Kubalik had two A+ opportunities to extend his goal streak, but Lindgren stopped both to keep the game in reach.
Montreal wasted no time out of the intermission and cut the Blackhawks’ lead in half just 54 seconds into the period. Former Blackhawk Phillip Danault beat Crawford glove side after finding the soft spot in the zone between Duncan Keith and Adam Boqvist.
Moments later, Canadiens’ forward Max Domi tackled Matthew Highmore to the ice after the whistle and was called for roughing. It was an unnecessary and foolish decision in the middle of a one-goal game.
As good teams do, the Blackhawks cashed in on their opponent’s mistake. Patrick Kane found Alex DeBrincat in the slot for a one-timer to make it 3-1 on the powerplay. Kane extended his point streak to eight games and picked up his 998th career point with the assist on DeBrincat’s 12th goal of the season. Toews extended his point streak to four games with an assist as well.
With another essential two points on the line, Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton rolled with the trio of Kubalik-Toews-Kane in the third period for the second consecutive game. Momentum shifted in Montreal’s favor towards the end of the second period, and Colliton felt the need to load up on the top line to neutralize their attack.
Toews appeared to give the Hawks a 4-1 lead for the team’s second power-play goal of the game, but the officials deemed that he kicked the puck into the net and ruled no goal.
Drake Caggiula made it 4-1 permanently after he stripped Jordan Weal of the puck and ripped a shot past Lindgren from the left circle at 11:40. Caggiula’s fourth goal of the season is his first since returning from injury (concussion protocol).
Caggiula has brought a noticeable spark to the lineup since returning from his injury. The hard-nosed forward was a pest on the forecheck all night, and it led to his first multi-point game of the season.
“He’s good again,” Colliton said of Caggiula. “I thought last game last night he was really good, too. So nice for him to be rewarded with a goal. He had a bunch of chances in the second period, too.”
The Canadiens came with a strong push down the stretch, but Crawford and the Hawks defense held tight to secure the victory. With the win, the Blackhawks move to 8-1-0 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.
“A great start, I thought, a big shorthanded goal, and then to get the 2-0 lead was big. But I thought we deserved it,” Colliton said. “We played hard, we were on our toes and putting pressure on them, [we] had a lot of good offensive zone shifts. A good response after they scored to make it 2-1. Sometimes they get a little push after that, but I thought we did a decent job of closing out the game. A good step for us to win it relatively under control.”
The Blackhawks get two days off before they take on the always dangerous Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night. These two teams met back on Nov. 10 at the United Center, with the Blackhawks winning 5-4. Toronto registered 57 shots on goal in that game, including 26 in the third period after falling behind 4-1.
Colliton didn’t rule out Dylan Strome or Brandon Saad joining the team in Toronto, but he didn’t sound enthusiastic about their chances of playing, either.
Kane is just two points shy of reaching 1,000, and Saturday in Toronto with the game on Hockey Night in Canada would be as ‘Showtime’ as it gets. The contest is slated for 6:00 p.m. CT and is scheduled to be on NBCSCH, CBC, SN1, and NHL.TV.
For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author (@JackBushman2) on Twitter. Make sure to check out the author’s podcast, Talkin’ Hawkey, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Twitter (@TalkinHawkey).