Blackhawks complete Canadian sweep on circus trip with win over Flames

Finnish rookie Antti Raanta, 24, got his first official NHL start Wednesday night in Calgary vs. the Flames for the Blackhawks - and his first win.

Both teams battled it out scoreless for over half the game, until Matt Stajan broke through to open the scoring 1-0 for the Flames.

The Blackhawks had a lot of offensive pressure against Calgary, but the Flames were committed heavily to shot-blocking and clogging passing lanes throughout the game.

Sean Monahan gave the Flames a second goal just over two minutes into the third. That point tied Monahan with Bruins Torey Krug for rookie points (15).

It seemed like the Flames' Swiss goaltender Reto Berra might collect a shutout, but Patrick Kane broke the seal on the Calgary net with a goal nearly halfway through the third period. The goal gave Kane a new career point streak high of 12 games.

Patrick Sharp followed that up with the game-tying goal just 56 seconds later to make it 2-2.

Overtime was looming when Niklas Hjalmarsson fed Kane the puck in front of the net. Kane scooped the puck in backhand past Berra for a 3-2 lead with just 18 seconds left in the third.

Post-game, Kane said he was originally intended to pass to Andrew Shaw on the play, but ended up trying to put one on net instead.

Calgary did a lot of things right in the game to hold the Blackhawks in check for most of the first 50 minutes. They were dedicated to shot-blocking (29), and they were beating Chicago on the dot 58%. Reto Berra made a number of saves early that kept the Flames in the game despite the Blackhawks' offensive onslaught.

Ultimately, however, the Blackhawks showed that they can never fully be counted out of a game this year. With tonight's win, they lead the league at being able to pull out wins when heading into the third period behind on the scoreboard, at .571%. That points disadvantage has only happened 7 times for the Blackhawks, and they've won 4 of those games.

It's a vital stat, because other division-leading teams like Boston, San Jose, Anaheim, Colorado, and St. Louis have just 5 wins - and 19 losses - between them when in the same situation.

The players showed an appreciation for one another after the game. Winning goaltender Raanta (2 GAA, .909 sv%) said he never doubted his teammates, and said, "Those forwards have magic hands."

Kane praised Raanta's play, and said the Finn was the team's "best player tonight, for sure, 100 percent."

Reto Berra (3 GAA, .900 sv%) had earned his first NHL win versus the Blackhawks earlier in the month. It seemed only fitting that Raanta would get his first NHL win versus the Flames in return.

Three stars:
1) Patrick Kane (2G) - CHI
2) Matt Stajan (1G) - CGY
3) Duncan Keith (1A) - CHI

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The Blackhawks head to Dallas to take on the Stars at 7:30 p.m. CST on Friday night. The game will be televised on CSN in the Chicago area, TXA 21 in Dallas, and NHL Network elsewhere in the US.
 

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