Blackhawks showing progress in protecting third-period leads

Blackhawks protect third-period lead in win over Canes originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Blackhawks have had a difficult time shutting down games in the month of March and repeatedly emphasized developing a “killer instinct” when they’re trying to protect leads.

It’s been a work in progress, but the Blackhawks are slowly starting to get back on track in that regard and it showed again on Tuesday when they held on to beat the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 at the United Center in a game that could’ve gone sideways fast.

“Really pleased with our resilience and the response,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I thought we worked really hard. Obviously, they’re an excellent team.

“It was a really tight-checking game the last two periods, in particular, everyone fighting for the space they were going to get and I liked how we defended. Of course, we’d like to create a little more … but overall, we competed hard and that’s a great start. It gives you a chance to win and we were able to come through.”

The Hurricanes dominated in the first period, particularly, and led in shot attempts (48-24), shots on goal (25-12), scoring chances (20-9) and high-danger chances (10-3) through two periods, according to Natural Stat Trick. And yet the Blackhawks somehow found themselves leading 2-1.

You knew the Hurricanes were going to push even harder in the third period, but the Blackhawks shut the door by giving up only seven shots on goal and one high-danger chance in the final 20 minutes of play. 

“We talked about a lot of stuff this morning as a team, how to be better in knowing when these games are on the line, how to play as a group together,” Connor Murphy said. “And it seemed like we were able to pack it in and understand that every puck and battle you’re in is a valuable one to the game and to the team. So it seemed like we showed that a little more tonight.

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“They got their looks, but as it got into crunch time in the game, later on, it seemed like guys were very desperate to help each other out in the battles.”

Kevin Lankinen was a big reason why the Blackhawks were in a position to score the first goal and, eventually, jump ahead 2-0. He turned aside the first 22 shots he saw and finished with 31 saves on 32 shots for a save percentage of .969.

“He’s been big in a lot of our wins,” Connor Murphy said. “You can’t say enough about your goalies and how much they do for you as a team. Him and [Malcolm Subban] have done that a lot for us this year. He’s poised back there and he can handle those pressure situations. We’re lucky to have him.”

It was a crucial two points for the Blackhawks, especially after the Columbus Blue Jackets knocked off the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators beat the Dallas Stars in overtime. Every team they’re fighting against for that final playoff spot picked up at least one point on Tuesday.

The Blackhawks may not have played their best against Carolina, but it doesn’t have to be pretty at this time of year. Grab the two points and run.

“You’re not going to win too many games in the NHL where you only get 16 shots,” Dylan Strome said. “We were fortunate enough tonight, but we’ve had some games this year where we’ve had a lot of shots but not much success. Hockey is a funny game like that, but we’ll take the two points.”

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Published: 2021-03-31 03:09:04

Tags: #Blackhawks #showing #progress #protecting #thirdperiod #leads

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