The Chicago Blackhawks blow a two goal lead late in the third period to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and go on to lose in overtime 4-3. The Blackhawks jumped out to an early lead when Jan Rutta snuck one in at the 3:46 mark. Captain Jonathan Toews added another at 7:57. The Hawks outplayed the Leafs for the first period, and lead 2-0 at the break. That’s where it ended.
The Maple Leafs poured it on in the second scoring their first goal by defenseman Nikita Zaitsev at 10:20. They possessed the puck for most of the period, peppering goalie Anton Forsberg with shot after shot. In the face of the onslaught, Forsberg rose to the challenge holding them off. The period ended with the Blackhawks leading 2-1.
The Blackhawks extended their lead to 3-1 on a rebound goal by Richard Panik at 7:52. Jan Rutta earned his second point of the night on the assist. From there, the Leafs took over adding two more goals by Connor Brown and James van Riemsdyk, tying the game at the 15:42 mark. The Blackhawks had one more chance with a powerplay late in the period; they managed to put a number of shots on goalie Frederick Anderson, but were unable to score.
Overtime went very much like the second and third periods. The Maple Leafs jumped all over the Hawks with speed and superior passing. At 3:43 of overtime, Auston Matthews sniped Forsberg top shelf for the game winner. The Blackhawks started the game like the team that potted 15 goals in its first two games, and finished the game like the team that lost to the Nashville Predators last year.
The biggest culprit tonight was the passing and the giveaways. Veterans Artem Anisimov and Brent Seabrook combined for five giveaways. Duncan Keith was noticeably sloppy with his passing, as was Connor Murphy. Without the usual puck control and smooth passing, the younger Maple Leafs were able to jump all over them and provide constant offensive pressure.
The loss of Nick Schmaltz loomed large as the game went on. Anisimov looked slow and lumbering at the second center spot. Schmaltz was ubiquitous on the ice in the first two games, allowing Kane to move freely without the puck and retrieve it in spots to put the puck in the net or on the sticks of teammates. Tonight Kane had a negative three plus/minus and only one shot on goal. Anisimov needs to move back a line with Sharp and DeBrincat.
There were some bright spots, even in the loss. Jan Rutta, the young Czech defenseman, had another nice game with a goal and an assist. He now has two goals, two assists and a plus/minus rating of plus seven. He certainly didn’t play a perfect game, getting caught playing the puck instead of the man in front of the net, but he is a promising young player. Anton Forsberg was also very good tonight, even after giving up four goals. He faced 43 shots on goal, twice as many as Toronto goalie Frederick Anderson. During the second and third periods, he faced shots that came fast and furiously, and he held up very well. He was also the victim of missed assignments. Strong first effort against a very good team.
It is easy to be frustrated after a tough loss, especially one in which you gave up a two-goal lead twice. However, in the six available points to earn so far, the Blackhawks have earned five. This is a small set-back, but an easily rectified one.
The Blackhawks are back in action Tuesday at Montreal- 7:30 start.
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