The Chicago Blackhawks won their ninth-straight game Sunday with a combination of skill and hustle. Patrick Kane was the magician late in the game, and Viktor Stalberg provided the effort.
Kane dazzled with a last-minute goal as well as the lone shootout tally in a dramatic 2-1 Blackhawks victory. Snatching points from a game that was shaping up to be Chicago's first regulation defeat was hardly a two-man effort.
Corey Crawford returned from whatever ailment forced him out of Thursday's game in St. Louis to garner first-star honors. Crawford out-dueled Jimmy Howard in a game in which the goaltenders stopped 64 of 66 shots.
Where does Stalberg figure into a game in which Crawford stood on his head and Kane displayed his remarkable offensive skills? In the area even good hockey teams have to excel in to pick up points in 21-straight games—hard work.
Chicago trailed 1-0 throughout most of the final 20 minutes after Tomas Tatar slipped a wrist shot past Crawford in the third minute of the third period. As the teams approached the final two minutes of regulation, the 'Hawks gained a power play when Jonathan Ericsson sent a clearing attempt over the glass for a delay of game penalty.
Twenty seconds into that man advantage, Patrick Sharp sent in a shot from the blue line that was blocked by Kyle Quincey. Quincey prepared to finish off a nice defensive play by clearing the puck from the Red Wings' zone.
That's where Stalberg came in.
From his place on the power-play unit in front of Howard, Stalberg skated around Brian Lashoff and gained control of the puck as Quincey was bringing his stick forward to clear it. In one motion, he slid the puck to Kane at the bottom of the right faceoff circle.
Kaner went to the top right corner past Howard and tied the score at a goal apiece. Kane then picked up the second point for Chicago with some smart stick-handling, leading to a successful attempt over Howard's blocker in the shootout.
The talent at the top of the lineup has been evident for the past two seasons. What really transforms the Blackhawks from a playoff team to a Stanley Cup contender lies in the vast difference in goaltending as well as heads-up plays like the one Stalberg made.