CHICAGO | The snow swirling around Soldier Field in poetic circles amid 17-degree temperatures Saturday night gave off a classic Currier and Ives veneer.
The beauty of the surroundings wasn’t confined to the residue of the storm. The Blackhawks somehow got their legs back on the slick ice that required constant shoveling in their 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins amid the gala of the NHL Stadium Series.
Delighting a snow-covered but enthusiastic 62,921 gate that had very few no-shows, the Hawks played a nearly perfect game with artistic goals amid the snow and a defense that throttled the Penguins and superstar Sidney Crosby.
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews crafted a beautiful move down the middle on Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period for the first of his two goals (Nos. 20 and 21).
“I think we kept it really simple early on in the game, threw pucks down the ice and chased after them,” Toews said. "Something about the conditions out there. It was tougher for the goalie to see and pucks start bouncing. It was tougher to defend against.”
Much tougher for Fleury than Hawks counterpart Corey Crawford, who made 31 saves and reported passable visibility on his end. Fleury also allowed a first-period goal to Patrick Sharp, a second-period score to Kris Versteeg and a Bryan Bickell goal to complement Toews’ second as insurance tallies in the third.
Perhaps the Hawks’ secret in their 22nd game in which they have scored five goals or more was simply enjoying the elements like little kids, through frequent shoveling delays with a 10-man crew totaled more than five minutes each period.
Snow was shoveled off the ice, out a door behind the south goal, loaded into wheelbarrows and dumped into big piles a few feet away.
Toews and Sharp celebrated their goals as if they had scored in the third period of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
“I knew (Sharp) was going to jump into me and Nick Leddy got caught in the middle,” said Toews, whose smile was indicative of the post-game mood of all Hawks.
“Our team took this game seriously,” Sharp added. “We wanted to win. At the same time, we’re out there having fun. This was the second time a lot of us have been through this experience with the (outdoor) game at Wrigley (Field) in 2009. We had a blast playing that one as well. Only difference is we won this game.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville concurred.
“The first one (Wrigley Field) was a cool game,” he said. “This one was cooler.
“These are pretty amazing conditions … A very memorable night.”
Not in as good of a mood was Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby. Yet even in a disheartening defeat on a national stage, he took away good memories of Soldier Field.
"Obviously, we had chances but couldn't capitalize,” Crosby said. “They're a good hockey team but I'm not going to talk about the elements. Regardless of the all the snow and the puck being slower, it was an awesome setting."
The Hawks drew energy from the snow-encrusted but loyal crowd.
“Looking up and seeing all the fans standing up the whole time,” Bickell said. “Seeing a couple of guys without their shirts that were kind of nuts. It’s an experience that a lot of people are going to take and never forget.”
Only downer was veteran Marian Hossa missing most of the game with an upper-body injury. Quennevile said the injury is “not long-term.”
Otherwise, it was a picture-perfect night in a winter that won’t quit.