NHL Game Summary - Toronto at Chicago
(Friday, December 22nd)
Final Score: Chicago 3, Toronto 1
Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Peter Bondra's 500th career goal proved to be the game-winning score, as the Chicago Blackhawks upended the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-1 at the United Center.
Bryan Smolinski and Brent Seabrook also lit the lamp for the Blackhawks, winners in three of their last four games. Nikolai Khabibulin made 25 saves in the win.
John Pohl tallied the only goal for the Maple Leafs, who have lost two straight following a three-game win streak. Jean-Sebastien Aubin stopped 22 shots in a hard-luck defeat.
Bondra was credited with the historic tally at 5:37 of the third, chopping a bouncing puck out of the air in the slot past Aubin. The initial shot came from Jassen Cullimore at the point, hit several players on its way to the net, and found Bondra who showed his usual dexterity on the marker.
The goal gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the night, 2-1, and was Chicago's first shot on goal in the period, only its sixth since the end of the first.
"I felt like it was my first goal," Bondra said. "I wasn't sure what I should be doing. I was happy I could score a big goal to win a game. You couldn't get a better goal than against Toronto."
The Slovakian-born sniper, who was signed as a free agent on December 10th, is the 37th player in NHL history to reach the 500-goal plateau, and the fifth of European origin to accomplish the feat.
Seabrook then upped the Hawks' lead to 3-1 on a wicked knuckling slapper from the bottom of the right circle with 2:44 remaining, and the Leafs could not score despite pulling Aubin with under two minutes to play.
"We had a good effort, but couldn't score goals," said Leafs captain Mats Sundin. "They capitalized on their chances. If you play hard and develop good habits, we'll win some games."
The story of the first period was the play of Aubin, who performed acrobatics in the crease to keep the Hawks scoreless while making 13 saves, at least five of which were point-blank chances.
However, a capacity crowd was moved to silence when Leafs forward Michael Peca was forced to leave the game late in the first with a right knee injury, as Blackhawks defenseman Jim Vandermeer collided with the veteran on an accidental knee-to-knee hit.
He was taken to a local hospital for x-rays, and while the prognosis is unknown, it appears to be of a similar kind Peca suffered in the 2002 playoffs.
"This is not day-to-day," said Leafs head coach Paul Maurice. "It's a bad injury. He's in quite a bit of pain. We're not going to know until the doctors get a better look inside."
Vandermeer was given a five-minute kneeing major plus a game misconduct, and the Leafs made him pay when Pohl buried his chance from the left circle with 4:01 to go in the period.
Smolinski tied the game at 1-1 at 8:57 of the second period off a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush with Denis Arkhipov, when his low shot from the left circle ticked off Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe's skate and slid through Aubin.
Bondra is also the fourth player to score his 500th goal in a Blackhawks uniform, joining Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Michel Goulet...Chicago improves to 254-284-96 against Toronto, in a series stretching back to 1926...It is also Chicago's first home win against Toronto since February 25, 2001...The Maple Leafs scored once in eight power-play chances, but the Blackhawks failed in their three chances...Referee Paul Devorski officiated his 999th career game.
12/23 00:17:12 ET