CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks' penalty kill was having a game to forget when the opportunity to save the day arrived in their season opener Tuesday night.
The Blackhawks had already allowed the Washington Capitals to score three power-play goals -- the Blackhawks didn't allow a total of three power-play goals until the 11th game last season -- when they handed the Capitals a 5-on-3 chance for one minute, 26 seconds with 3:33 left in the third period. To add to the drama, the Blackhawks were trying to hold on to a one-goal lead.
With the game on the line, Blackhawks skaters Jonathan Toews, Marcus Kruger, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya rotated on defense during the 5-on-3 and with the help of a four saves by goaltender Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks' penalty kill came through and denied the Capitals on the final power play, leading to a 6-4 win at the United Center.
"It was a pretty interesting spot we put ourselves in," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You give up three power-play goals, and we're facing a 5-on-3 for almost two full minutes. They were the best power play in the league last season for all the right reasons they scored their three goals. They got a lot of different looks and a lot of playmakers and shotmakers. We avoided what could have been a disaster, but [Crawford] made some big stops and got through it."
The Capitals called a timeout just after the 5-on-3 power play was set up by a delay-of-game penalty by Blackhawks forward Joakim Nordstrom. During the timeout, the Blackhawks laid out their plan.
"[We talked about] just basically what they wanted to do," said Oduya, who turned 32 on Tuesday and had a goal in the win. "They had two big shooters up at top. We wanted to not give them that. We gave them a couple shots, but [Crawford] made some sick saves and [Hjalmarsson] blocked a couple. It was good to finish off strong like that."
Crawford said, "We were taking the passing lanes away a little bit more, making some big blocks at the end. I don't think we were bad on the other goals. It was just they had some space, and they took advantage of it. They made some nice plays."
In the end, though, Oduya was pleased that the penalty kill came through in the clutch. It made up for the rest of the night.
"We gave them three goals on their power play there," Oduya said. "It felt good in the end to kind of shut them down at least on the 5-on-3.
"Maybe this game wasn't as well played as we wanted to, but I think it's important we came out with a win and just keep building."