The Blackhawks gave a much better effort in Game 2 but still wound up on the wrong end of the outcome.
The Chicago Blackhawks lost Game 2 of their first-round series to the No. 1-seeded Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in overtime on Thursday afternoon. Reilly Smith, who tallied three points (2G, 1A) in Game 1, scored the game-winner at 7:13 of the extra period to put Vegas ahead 2-0 in the series. Teams with a 2-0 lead in best-of-seven series are 324-51 (86.4 percent) in NHL history.
“Disappointing, because I thought we played hard,” Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “At the same time, we’ve got to keep improving. We’re not out of it. We’re going to regroup and come out raring in Game 3.”
Paul Stastny gave the Golden Knights an early 1-0 lead at 10:44 of the first period after a miscommunication in front of the Blackhawks net from defensemen Connor Murphy and Lucas Carlsson. Carlsson was inserted into the lineup in place of 19-year-old rookie Adam Boqvist for Game 2, and the decision cost head coach Jeremy Colliton and the Hawks early.
Boqvist played in the first five playoff games for the Blackhawks and spent the majority of his ice time with two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith on the team’s top defensive pairing. Colliton was asked about scratching the 2018 first-round pick after the game, and the third-year head coach sure made it sound like the decision was performance-based. Boqvist is averaging 14:11 time on ice per game with a -3 plus/minus rating and no points in his five postseason games.
‘We’re hoping [Boqvist] with a day of rest, can come back with potentially another level for us.” Colliton said.
Just like Game 1, Vegas doubled their lead shortly after opening the scoring, as Tomas Nosek snuck a snapshot seven-hole on Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford at 15:35. Keith stepped up to make a hit on William Carrier in the neutral zone, and his decision gave Vegas a 2-on-1 from the blue line in for their second goal of the period.
Nosek replaced forward Max Pacioretty in the Knights’ lineup for Game 2 after being ruled “unfit to participate” during pre-game warmups, but he left the game after an awkward collision with Jonathan Toews in the neutral zone.
After a dreadful effort in the opening 20 minutes, Kirby Dach cut the Hawks deficit in half with his first career postseason goal off a juicy rebound from Vegas’ goaltender Robin Lehner. Calvin de Haan jumped into the play in the offensive zone, and his shot from the point bounced off Lehner’s left pad and found Dach with an open net near the right post. Patrick Kane also picked up his first point of the series with the secondary assist.
After some hard-fought work in the front half of the second period, Dominik Kubalik tied the score 2-2 with a power-play goal on a wrist shot from the right circle at 12:07. The Blackhawks FINALLY cashed in against the Golden Knights’ lackluster penalty kill, and Kubalik is now tied with Toews for the team-lead in goals this postseason with four.
Vegas was able to recapture their lead just over five minutes later when Mark Stone stuffed a loose puck past Crawford for his first point of the series. Ryan Carpenter was caught puck watching in the defensive zone and left the front of the net wide open once Olli Maatta took his man in coverage up high.
With time ticking down in the second period, Colliton threw Kane, Alex DeBrincat, and Dylan Strome together for a shift, and the trio wound up putting the puck in the back of the net following a perfect passing play. DeBrincat drifted the puck over to the right circle for Kane in transition, and ‘Showtime’ made an incredible backhand saucer pass through traffic and onto Strome’s tape for a tap-in goal with under 14 seconds remaining.
Strome’s goal is his first point since Game 1 of the qualifying round against the Edmonton Oilers when he banked a shot off goaltender Mike Smith and into the net. Kane picked up his third assist of the period and sixth of the postseason on the play.
Unfortunately, the Blackhawks fell flat after knotting the score 3-3 at the end of the second period. In total, they put just six shots on Lehner in the third, and the game only reached overtime due to Crawford’s effort in net. The 35-year-old stopped all 16 shots he faced to hold off the Knights push in the final minutes.
“I thought we were playing really well the first two periods,” Kane said. “And for whatever reason it just seemed that they came out better than us in the third. I don’t know if we thought it was going to be a little bit easier than it was, especially after we tied it up. But they’re a good team, they’re going to fight back, and they carried the play for most of the third.”
Crawford was only able to hold off Vegas for so long in overtime, as Smith deflected Stastny’s centering pass for the game-winner after another defensive breakdown in front of the net. Kubalik and Toews were both a bit lackadaisical in coverage and let Smith slip backdoor uncontested, which was the theme for Game 2.
The Blackhawks now face a 2-0 deficit for the first time since 2017 against the Nashville Predators. Of course, that series ended in a clean 4-0 sweep by the Preds, and the Hawks will look to prevent that from happening again with an improved effort in a must-win Game 3.
“Once we find our groove, we’ll be alright as a group,” Dach said with confidence. “It’s tough to swallow this one right now. We had chances in overtime to put the game away. That’s not the way it went, so we’ve got to regroup fast here because these next two games are coming up quick.”
Game 3 between the Blackhawks and Golden Knights is on Saturday, Aug. 15 at 7:30 p.m. (CT). The contest is scheduled to be broadcasted on NBC, CBC, and SN.
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