After a horrible 0-3-1 Florida road trip, the Blackhawks welcomed their longtime rival Detroit Red Wings back to the Central Division with a much-needed 4-1 home-opening victory last night. The win was by far Chicago’s most complete game and was the first game in which they did not allow five goals against.

With some luck, the Blackhawks finally opened the scoring for the first time this season while on the power play late in the first period. After a nice zone-entry by Alex Debrincat, Dylan Strome directed the puck toward a charging Patrick Kane, who chipped it over goalie Thomas Greiss’ pad. The puck initially deflected off Red Wing defenseman Alex Biega’s glove before falling right to Kane. The goal marked Kane’s third of the year and extended his current point streak to four games.

Calvin de Haan would make it 2-0 with a slapshot midway through the second, with Strome collecting his second assist of the game. The goal was preceded by a beautiful transition play between Kane and rookie defenseman Ian Mitchell, who had activated from the blue line, causing the Red Wings to scramble in their own zone.

On a night of many firsts, the Blackhawks also scored their prettiest goal of the year midway through the period, compliments of one of their grittiest players. Andrew Shaw would score on a beautiful tic-tac-toe sequence while on the power play to make it 3-0, with all five Blackhawks touching the puck. Shaw was awarded the alternate captain’s “A” for the Hawks’ first home game, after Connor Murphy had served as the alternate the first four road games.

The Red Wings would unfortunately break goalie Kevin Lankinen’s shutout bid with less than eight minutes left in the game. After the Red Wings won a board battle in the neutral zone, Dylan Larkin corralled the puck and used a terrific power move around defenseman Ian Mitchell, before wristing the puck through the stick-side of Lankinen. The goal led to a short surge by Detroit until Mattias Janmark scored his first goal of the season –and as a Blackhawk — on an empty net for the 4-1 victory.

The win was Lankinen’s first in the NHL, with the young netminder making 30 saves and earning the first star of the game. Considering his solid performance — and barring any unforeseen circumstance — it is safe to assume that Lankinen will be the starter when the Blackhawks finish their two-game series against Detroit this Sunday. If so, Lankinen will be the first Hawk goalie to start three games in a row this year.

Unlike their overall record, the Blackhawks’ power play has been red hot to start the season. The power play has scored in all five games this year and currently holds the fourth-best power play percentage in the league (41.2%). Last night, the Blackhawks converted 2 of 5 power play opportunities. Although their penalty kill still needs work, the Hawks did manage to kill all five of Detroit’s man-advantages.

Carl Soderberg was initially slated by general manager Stan Bowman to make his Blackhawk debut last night, but did not, even though he did practice with the team on Thursday. Soderberg could draw into the lineup as early as Sunday.


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