Alex DeBrincat celebrates his first NHL goal with teammates in the first period in Montreal Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

Alex DeBrincat, Corey Crawford lead Blackhawks to victory over Habs

SHARE Alex DeBrincat, Corey Crawford lead Blackhawks to victory over Habs
SHARE Alex DeBrincat, Corey Crawford lead Blackhawks to victory over Habs

MONTREAL — Patrick Sharp’s nickname, “Shooter,” is well earned. A goal-scorer by trade, Sharp has rarely seen a shot he won’t take. But through the first three-plus games of the season, Sharp had been determined to get 19-year-old rookie Alex DeBrincat his first NHL goal.

You could see it late in the first period Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens, when Sharp turned down a point-blank shot and forced a pass to DeBrincat on the rush. It was a little too cute, and DeBrincat couldn’t get the shot off in traffic.

But just a few minutes later, Sharp’s efforts paid off. Again entering the Montreal zone on the rush, Sharp faked a shot and slid a pass across to DeBrincat, who flashed that quick release that made him so dangerous at the junior level, ripping a one-timer past a Montreal defender and goalie Carey Price. Not only did that give DeBrincat his first NHL goal — against the consensus best goalie in the world, no less —it gave the Blackhawks life after a truly dreadful start, propelling them to a 3-1 victory at Bell Centre.

DeBrincat added an assist later, as the Hawks improved to 3-0-1.

“Not that Alex really needs the confidence, he’s been playing well to start the season, and all through camp,” Sharp said. “But you could see he felt so much better after putting that one in. Not a chintzy goal, either — a one-timer against a great goalie. I was happy to see him put it in and glad I could be a part of it.”

Sharp is 16 years older than DeBrincat — the first Hawks teenager to score since Nick Leddy on March 11, 2011 — but the two have quickly formed a May/December hockey bromance on and off the ice.

“He’s always talking to me, always trying to give me advice on where to be and how to play,” DeBrincat said. “He’s been a big help to me.”

Said coach Joel Quenneville: “Those guys have been really good together. Whether they’re scoring or not, we like the way they’re playing without the puck, and they’re moving around the ice where it seems like things develop almost every single shift.

DeBrincat said he was trying not to think about that first goal — in juniors, when he was lighting up the Ontario Hockey League, a three-game goal drought was extremely rare —but admitted that it was a relief to get it out of the way. He called it “a dream come true.”

“You think about that moment your whole life,” he said.

Up until DeBrincat’s goal, it was all Canadiens, much as it was all Maple Leafs from the second period on, a night earlier. Tomas Plekanec picked off a Ryan Hartman exit pass and surprised Corey Crawford with a quick shot to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead just 75 seconds into the game. Two minutes later, the Canadiens fired eight shots on goal in a 70-second span, aided by a Brent Seabrook turnover deep in his own zone. Halfway through the first period, the Canadiens were outshooting the Hawks 14-2.

If not for Crawford’s typical brilliance against his hometown team — he’s now 8-0-2 lifetime against Montreal —it could have been a lot worse.

Then Sharp set up DeBrincat to tie it at 17:53 of the first. Nineteen seconds later, Jonathan Toews found Brandon Saad on the doorstep to make it 2-1. Saad’s fifth goal in four games took the air out of a raucous crowd that was giddily celebrating the Canadiens’ home opener. DeBrincat then set up an Artem Anisimov power-play goal midway through the second period, neatly one-touching a pass from Cody Franson to Anisimov in the goalmouth. Price had no chance, and it was 3-1.

As for Crawford, his 41-save performance was as brilliant as it was expected. He now has a staggering .954 save percentage in 10 career games against the Canadiens, giving up just 15 goals. He was sensational again, stoning Paul Byron on a shorthanded breakaway just before Anisimov’s backbreaker, and making a brilliant save on Jonathan Drouin during an early third-period Canadiens power play. Crawford even got a shot on goal himself midway through the third period.

“It’s fun to play here,” Crawford said. “Friends and family here. I was pretty excited to come here and play.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com


Blackhawks struggling to adapt to crackdown on faceoffs, slashes

Blackhawks squander two-goal lead, fall in overtime to Leafs

The Latest
Appearing on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” Ashley Solis, who is among 22 women who have sued Watson over allegations he behaved inappropriately with them, provided graphic details of an encounter with the three-time Pro Bowler.
Third-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson is one of the three building blocks the Bears have on their roster. Tuesday, though, he was running with the second-team defense.
A local man opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, about 85 miles west of San Antonio.
The feds pointed to a video Lamar Taylor posted on Facebook Live on his way downtown on May 30, 2020, in which Taylor made “air quotes” with his hands as he said he was on his way to “protest.”
And a mixed bag from rivers, inland lakes and Lake Michigan share the lead to this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.