by Scott King
The Hawks drew first blood in the wet and misty 2017 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic at Busch Stadium. Defenseman Michal Kempny beat Blues goaltender Jake Allen at 1:02 in the first period. Artemi Panarin and Duncan Keith were credited with assists on the play.
The goal was the second of Kempny’s NHL career. He scored his first in the Hawks’ last game Friday at Carolina.
“I think he’s come back, played well,” said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville of the d-man. “Had a great shot right off the bat, got us going.
“Defensively, he’s been moving the puck quickly. I think he’s been getting better defensively, and that’s the area [where] if he improves [it], his overall game will really be enhanced. He’s been good.”
Blues forward Patrik Berglund scored at 7:45 in the second period to bring the game to a 1-1 tie. Forward Alexander Steen picked up his 300th NHL assist and 500th NHL point on the play.
At 12:05 in the third period Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko banked a shot past Corey Crawford off Niklas Hjalmarsson’s skate for the go ahead goal, then scored again at 13:58. “It was kind of a weird one,” said Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford of Tarasenko’s second goal.
“I think it was more of just trying to chip it over the pad than fire as hard as he can. I just didn’t think he had anything.”
To put a nail in the Hawks’ damp coffin, Alexandre Steen scored on the empty net at 18:46.
“At the end they kept coming faster it seemed like,” Crawford said. “Both teams were putting the puck in the right area, it was bouncing around. Both teams knew you can’t make the same plays that you usually do.”
Weathering The Storm
A sold-out crowd of 46,556 watched the Central Division-leading Hawks take on the third place Blues in the NHL’s 21st outdoor regular season game.
The Blackhawks were no strangers to roughing the elements. They did it with snow at the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field and more snow at Solder Field in a 2014 Stadium Series game.
The contest at Busch Stadium was the first outdoor game in Blues history. “It was way better than anybody thought,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “The ice felt heavy, so the shifts were short. You were looking at 25-30-second shifts and that fits us too. We kept our energy up, changed great all game and we used four lines almost right to the end, which was a real good sign for us.”
The rain died down a little after puck drop with a temperature of 46.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It’s the same for both teams,” said Hjalmarsson of Monday’s conditions and possible rain delay. “You just kind of go with the flow sort of, and I think it worked out perfectly today.
“They did a great job with getting the ice really [playable] for us. I think it was a pretty well-played game and it’s tough to lose that one. It was a really big game that we wanted to win.”
The Hawks have dropped five of their last six games, only picking up three of a possible 12 points.
The OUTside Down
The Hawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor NHL regular season games.
Follow Blackhawks Crazy on Facebook for everything Hawks!