Raanta leads Blackhawks past Flyers 4-0
CHICAGO — Once again, Antti Raanta filled in flawlessly for Corey Crawford.
Raanta made 32 saves to earn a shutout in his first start of the season, and Patrick Kane scored two power-play goals to lead the Chicago Blackhawks past the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 on Tuesday night.
Raanta was sharp as he subbed for Crawford — Chicago’s No. 1 goalie who is out day-to-day with an upper-body injury — to record his second career shutout. Among his saves were two point-blank stops on Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux and one on Matt Read late in the second period
“I found out this morning,” Raanta said regarding his start. “You’re always ready when you come to the rink.”
Coming up big when Crawford gets hurt is nothing new for Raanta. The 25-year-old Finn started 10 games in a row last season after Crawford suffered a groin injury in a Dec. 8 game against Florida. The Blackhawks went 7-1-2 during that stretch.
“He was real solid, square, confident,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “He was definitely in control tonight.”
Chicago’s Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell scored along with Kane in a 2:06 flurry late in the first period to stake the Blackhawks and Raanta to an early lead.
“We have struggled a little bit with goal scoring, so it was good to see that guys were shooting a lot and we got nice goals in the first period,” Raanta said. “It helped of course.”
Besides their first goals this season, Saad and Bickell each had assists as Chicago’s third line, centered by Brad Richards, clicked and the Blackhawks improved to 4-0-1. Richards, who signed as a free agent last summer following a contract buyout by the New York Rangers, set up Saad’s goal to earn his first point as a Blackhawk.
“The Richards and Saad line tonight was very good for us,” Quenneville said. “When we get rolling in all the lines, we get that predictability and familiarity. Hopefully, we get that pace.”
Philadelphia’s Steve Mason made 39 saves. He was back in net for his fifth start in six games despite being pulled after two periods in the Flyers’ come-from-behind 6-5 overtime win at Dallas on Saturday — their only victory.
Mason might have been the Flyers’ best player in this one, especially in the first period when Chicago dominated.
“We had a horrible start,” Flyers defenseman Mark Streit said. “Mase was pretty much the only guy out there playing his game. It’s just not acceptable having a start like that, and if you do you’re going to get punished.”
The Blackhawks came out strong for the third straight game. Chicago outshot Philadelphia 19-9 in the first and connected on three of five shots during a flurry late in the period.
“You can’t stand there and watch them pass the puck around and skate, especially a team like that,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “We were like deer in the headlights in the first period.”
Saad opened the scoring 11:54 in. Mason made flashy, close-in saves on Saad and Richards, but then Saad outmuscled the Flyers Michael Del Zotto to the net and tucked in a loose puck from the goal line after Richards centered it.
Kane made it 2-0 with a power-play score 32 seconds later. He swatted in the puck from the left side of the net after Patrick Sharp’s shot from the blue line caromed off the back boards.
Bickell extended the lead to 3-0 with 6:00 left in the period when he motored down the slot and ripped a shot over Mason’s shoulder.
Raanta was most heavily tested in the second period when he turned aside 10 shots, and late in the third during a Flyers’ power play.
Kane added his second power-play goal from a goalmouth scrum at 3:50 of the third to complete the scoring.
Raanta came up with a shoulder save on Jakub Voracek with 6:30 left to preserve the shutout.
Chicago LW Kris Versteeg returned after suffering a lower body injury in practice two days before the season opener. He skated on a line with Kane and C Andrew Shaw. To make room, F Jeremy Morin sat out. … The Blackhawks recalled G Scott Darling from Rockford of the AHL to fill Crawford’s roster spot. Darling is a native of Lemont, Ill., a Chicago suburb. … Flyers C Vincent Lecavalier missed his third game and D Braydon Coburn sat out his fifth, both with lower-body injuries.
*Photo courtesy of Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images