The Chicago Blackhawks have talked about doing it when they need to, and on Wednesday night they backed up their words. They bailed out their goaltender on the way to a 5-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers.
It was a 2-2 game after two periods and the boos were rising in volume in the direction of Cristobal Huet. Given the starting job yet again after the Hawks did not make a trade deadline move, Huet had a very shaky middle 20 minutes, and he needed a pick-me-up.
That’s when a three-goal third period turned a close game into an easy victory.
“It was tight at first,” Huet said in reference to a 0-0 score after the first period. “When we took control of the game we let [them] back [in it] with some questionable goals but most of the night we played a good game, I thought.”
Huet was, admittedly, pointing at himself when he mentioned “questionable goals.” He couldn’t find the puck at his feet on the Oilers’ first tally and Robert Nilsson poked it in. Minutes later, after Niklas Hjarmalsson turned the puck over when his stick broke, Huet gave up a five-hole goal to Shawn Horcoff. Those goals came on the Oilers’ ninth and eleventh shots of the game and that’s when the boos started.
“We need to play better in front of our goaltenders,” Jonathan Toews said. “They’re the ones taking the heat sometimes, but we take responsibility for the way we play as a team.”
As for the trade deadline coming and going, Huet was well aware of the rumors and was ready for anything.
“[When] your name is mentioned, it’s not fun,” Huet said after the win. “But we’re all pros and it happens to everybody at one point, so it’s something we have to deal with and this year it was no different for me.”
Before the game, Joel Quenneville intimated Huet would have every chance to re-claim the No. 1 job heading into the playoffs. Though there were some rough moments on Wednesday, he’s off to a winning start as an entire fandom hopes for the best.
The Hawks argued, to no avail, that Nilsson pushed Huet’s pads and subsequently the puck into the net, on the Oilers first goal. The refs went to a video replay but declared it legal.
Joel Quenneville had high praise for Marian Hossa, who had a goal, an assist, and was name number one star. “I thought [Hossa] had a special game tonight. Offensively, defensively, his back side pressure -- he had the puck a lot.”
Asked about his game-winning goal in the third period, Hjarmalsson said, “I just closed my eyes and went for it ... I got lucky.”