Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks are red-hot right now, and look primed to make a run at their fourth Stanley Cup Championship in the last eight seasons. The Blackhawks hosted Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center on Wednesday night in what some are calling a potential Stanley Cup Finals preview, and the Blackhawks earned a dominant statement victory on the strength of a Patrick Kane hat trick, his second in the last three games.
Patrick Kane scored his first goal of the night on Wednesday at the 8:49 mark of the second period when he beat Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the five hole on a two-on-one rush. The Penguins would tie the game at one a piece with three minutes left in the second period when Scott Wilson stuffed a goal past Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling that bounced off of the netting just behind the top crossbar and bounced out of the net.
The goal was originally waived off by the officials before being reviewed and overturned as a good goal for the Penguins. Richard Panik put the Blackhawks back ahead with under thirty seconds remaining in the second period with an impressive move in front of the Penguins net to beat Fleury and give the Hawks a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.
The Blackhawks would not look back on Wednesday night as Patrick Kane would score twice more in the third period including a snap shot that pushed the Hawks lead to 3-1 before Kane completed the hat trick in the final minute of the contest when he pulled a puck off of the boards in the corner and nailed an empty net shot on a very tough angle surrounded by Penguins defenders.
Scott Darling was magnificent on the evening, stopping 36 of 37 Pittsburgh shots as the Blackhawks earned a decisive 4-1 win over the Penguins on Wednesday night. Darling now ranks second in the NHL in save percentage for goalies that have started at least 20 games this season, boasting a solid .931 save percentage to this point.
Blackhawks second-line center Artem Anisimov left Wednesday night’s game with a lower-body injury early in the second period after taking a shot to the knee and limping off of the ice to the dressing room. Anisimov would not return to the game and Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville said that the center would miss “a little bit” of time with his lower-body injury after the game.
Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz stepped up big on Wednesday evening assuming the second-line center role after Anisimov left the game, drawing praise from Patrick Kane and Head Coach Joel Quenneville on his performance recently.
“The last four games he really elevated his game to a different level,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Schmaltz. “[He was] a big factor again tonight. Great to see him play like that.”
Patrick Kane has tallied two hat tricks in his last three games for the Hawks, and totaled seven goals in those three games, and helped fuel the Hawks current red-hot pace. The Blackhawks are heading into the final leg of the regular season having won 10 of the last 11 games, including five consecutive wins. Here’s what Kane had to say about his recent performance after the game,
“I guess sometimes players get a little streaky,” said Kane, who has seven goals in the past three games, 12 in the past 11. “I don’t think I played my best game tonight, but at the same time, you get opportunities and chances, and you find ways to score goals.”
The wins have come against solid competition as well over the current stretch, with wins coming over the Penguins, Blues, and a pair of victories over the Western Conference leading, Minnesota Wild.
The Blackhawks have 19 games remaining on their regular season slate, including dates with the Wild, Penguins, Ducks, and Red Wings over the next month.