Philipp Kurashev stared down a wall of Red Wings penalty-killers.
Seconds later, Kurashev crashed into an actual wall.
In between, the rookie forward sliced through everyone — Detroit defenseman Troy Stetcher was so lost he cross-checked the air — to score one of the prettiest goals the Blackhawks have seen in years.
Kurashev’s wondergoal, aided only by an Alex DeBrincat empty-netter, held up for the duration as the Hawks beat the Wings 2-0 on Wednesday.
“Everyone was just happy for me, so I was happy, too,” Kurashev said shyly. “I thought I’d try to get around the ‘D’... I made the move and saw I had some space for a breakaway, so I tried to do [another] move and I scored.”
“Phil was the big star on that one,” added goaltender Kevin Lankinen, more willing to boast about his teammate. “He made one hell of a play. He’s going to end up in the highlights with that. It’s one he’s going to remember for a long time. One we’re going to remember for a long time, too.”
Of course, Lankinen — the most valuable player in the vast majority of the Hawks’ wins this season — also celebrated a big moment Wednesday: his first career shutout.
With the Wings pushing hard in the final 10 minutes, Lankinen’s steadiness was fully tested. Lucas Carlsson sprawled and DeBrincat stuck out his stick to deflect away one golden opportunity, but Lankinen otherwise earned all 29 saves with which he was credited — and the Hawks needed every one of them, too.
“It wasn’t a 4-0 game — maybe could’ve been — but the shutouts when you need every little last save, those are pressure-packed,” coach Jeremy Colliton said.
The win improved the Hawks’ overall record to 9-5-4, their first time at real .500 since October 28, 2018. They’re now 4-0 against the Wings this season.
“We’ve found our group,” Lankinen said. “We’ve found our identity. We know how we’re supposed to play.”
Kurashev’s jaw-dropping play understandably attracted almost as much attention as the win itself, though.
The 21-year-old’s immediate emergence as a top-six weapon for the Hawks is fairly unprecedented for a player of his age and draft status. He has now scored nine points in 17 games this season, just 2.5 years removed from being the 120th overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft.
The 154 other players selected in the third-through-seventh rounds that year have combined for just six career NHL points. Only two of them have yet made it to the NHL at all.
“He’s a pretty skilled player,” Colliton said. “It’s a combination of speed and skill. If he doesn’t have the speed, he probably can’t make that play. It’s pretty high-end.”
IceHogs release Darling
Scott Darling’s heartwarming, if inevitably brief, return to the Blackhawks organization ended Wednesday.
The Rockford IceHogs released the 32-year-old goaltender from his AHL tryout contract with their other three goaltenders now healthy and available. Darling made just one start, allowing five goals on 27 shots.
But another player previously on a PTO — Hawks prospect defenseman Michael Krutil, a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft — earned a full-season contract Wednesday. The permanent transition to North American professional hockey should continue accelerating the 18-year-old’s development.
The IceHogs, with one of the AHL’s youngest rosters, are winless in four games so far.