Hurricanes fall 3-1 to Blackhawks

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes outshot the Chicago Blackhawks, but the Blackhawks outscored the Hurricanes and claimed a 3-1 road win at PNC Arena on Monday.

Victor Rask scored Carolina’s lone goal while starting netminder Anton Khudobin made another impressive start, finishing with 22 saves, but was unable to earn the win.

David Shaw led the Blackhawks, scoring his 11th and 12th goals of the season, while Patrick Sharp scored his 13th, the eventual game winner.

Chicago goalkeeper Corey Crawford made 43 saves and earned his 30th win.

As the remaining player in the Hurricanes dressing room afterward, captain Eric Staal recounted opportunities lost while trying to beat the Blackhawks goalie.

Carolina outshot Chicago 44-25.

“He was good,” Staal said.

“I just thought we gave him too much respect early on in the game and didn’t make any passes until the second period. Once we started doing that, realizing it was still a hockey game, we were fine. We were making a lot of plays, enough to score. We just couldn’t score. It’s frustrating.”

Carolina managed to get only power play opportunity of the game during the first five minutes of play.

It wasn’t the best man-up sequence that the Hurricanes have executed this season, able to only get one shot through to Crawford as a few other shot attempts were blocked.

The Hawks ended up blocking a total of 25 shots throughout the game, a major reason why the Hurricanes had trouble scoring.

Carolina made quick shift changes and possessed the puck effectively while Khudobin didn’t have many pucks to stop early on.

Coming off a 4-0 loss to Dallas on Saturday, Chicago didn’t look as sharp as expected.

They didn’t register a shot on net for the first eight minutes of play, but when they did, they made it count.

Not only did they score on their first shot, but on their second as well – all in 72 seconds.

The team that had won seven of their last 10 games finally showed up and caught the Hurricanes napping on defense.

It was a few lapses, and costly ones at that.

Shaw one-timed Marcus Kruger’s centering pass into the net to put the Blackhawks ahead 1-0 at 7:48.

While Kruger controlled the puck behind the net, Shaw found space within a triangle of Hurricanes defensemen and a deep forward to score his first of the game.

Just under two minutes later, Sharp scored to extend the Chicago lead to 2-0.

Marian Hossa delivered a pass to the streaking winger in the low slot where he redirected the puck past Khudobin’s blocker.

Chicago carried the two-goal lead into the second period, despite being outshot 10-9.

“We weren’t sharp early,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said.

“We didn’t make any plays, we just batted the puck around.”

A change to the lines infused a surge in Carolina’s offense as Jeff Skinner missed a prime opportunity to cut the lead in half early in the second.

After getting a centering pass from Alexander Semin, Skinner’s shot was partially blocked by Chicago defenseman Kimmo Timonen before it dribbled towards Crawford who covered it up to stop the play.

Not too long after, Rask scored his 11th of the season – a play started by a long lead pass from John-Michael Liles to Staal, who went in alone on Crawford.

The Chicago keeper moved laterally and made a pad save on Staal’s backhand shot, but Rask cleaned up the big rebound, easily depositing the puck into the empty net.

The goal pulled the Hurricanes to within one at the 3:54 mark.

Play got more physical to the delight of the 13,786 in attendance, a crowd comprised of a generous representation of both teams.

Carolina put together a strong first 10 minutes of play in the period, outshooting the Blackhawks 11-1 at the time.

Rask almost tied the game on a backhand attempt from behind the net that hit a Chicago skate and slid across the crease behind Crawford, and in front of the goal line, before it was swiped away.

While dominating play in the period, the Hurricanes couldn’t clean up the little bouncers and chip shots that slid in and around the Blackhawks net.

They couldn’t put away a team that was just surviving, but was also dangerous every time it touched the puck.

Chicago tried to finish another scoring opportunity with under a minute to play in the period, but Toews’ shot from the slot was blocked wide right, and the Hurricanes escaped the period still down by one.

Carolina won the period and outshot Chicago 19-6.

The Hurricanes outchanced the Blackhawks throughout the third, but Crawford made the stops he needed to make to maintain the lead.

At the other end, Brandon Saad’s redirect opportunity while crashing the crease required Khudobin to make another big save with 12 minutes remaining.

Seven minutes later, the Hurricanes were all around Crawford’s crease and net area, but shot attempts from the Staal brothers couldn’t make it through.

After Jordan’s was stopped, Eric’s wrist shot from the slot looked like it was labeled to pick the right corner through the crowd.

However, Johnny Oduya’s presence in the crease blocked the puck from going any further.

A minute later, a wrist shot from Semin was tipped by a pinching Ron Hainsey, but Crawford made the save by his left post.

It continued that way until the final horn sounded.

Khudobin did his part – stopping another shot from Saad – a point-blank attempt on a 3-on-1 with two minutes to play.

His effort to keep his team in the game was never in question and hasn’t been for all five starts he’s made recently, even while losing four straight, including one in overtime and another in a shootout.

The Hurricanes added the extra skater with 52 seconds remaining, and it looked as though they would take advantage of the opportunity to tie the score.

However, as Skinner let a wrist shot go towards the net from the middle of the slot, it was blocked by Toews and rolled towards the blue line.

Joakim Nordstrom picked the puck up and fed Shaw in the neutral zone, and he skated in unopposed to score the empty-netter and his second of the game.

Toews was also credited with an assist on the play, his 500th career NHL point.

The Blackhawks’ season sweep of the Hurricanes was complete.

Even though his team hasn’t won recently and particularly in its own building, Peters indicated that if every player contributed, success would always be a possibility.

“It’s promising,” Peters said.

“I like our team, I really do. I don’t like the fact that we didn’t play 60 minutes here tonight. I don’t like our compete on some nights. Some nights we don’t have 18 guys goin’. We don’t. That’s reality – but I like our group. I like our young group. I like our veteran group. Somewhere in the middle we’ve gotta’ get more out of guys. We gotta’ start on time.”

Boxscore: Chicago 3, Carolina 1