Lankinen strong for Blackhawks despite OT loss
Going over a month between starts isn't easy on a goaltender.
Many would be rusty and most likely give up a couple of soft goals, especially when facing one of the top teams in the league.
Yet, that's not what happened with Kevin Lankinen during the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss at Minnesota on Saturday as he thwarted one high-danger chance after another. Twenty of Lankinen's 40 saves came during a frenetic second period completely dominated by the Wild.
"He's just become a complete goalie," interim coach Derek King said last month. "He's played well for us. ...
"There's no issues with, 'Oh, we have to put in our No. 2 goalie.' We are more than comfortable and trustworthy with him."
The Hawks (15-19-7) led 3-2 late, but Minnesota (24-10-3) tied it when Kevin Fiala scored with 2:04 remaining. It was the Wild's league-leading 13th goal with the goalie pulled.
Marcus Foligno won it with 38 seconds remaining in overtime.
Lankinen did everything in his 50th NHL appearance -- stopping a pair of dangerous redirects by Joel Eriksson Ek, smothering pucks at the right time, and making smart decisions behind the net.
In the end, he was THE reason the Hawks were in the game.
"I thought he played really well," said Alex DeBrincat, who scored his 24th goal to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead late in the first period. "He kept us in the game. ... He made some huge saves at the end. Good to see him back in the net and good to see him playing like that."
Lankinen (2-5-4) was extremely impressive during 5-on-5 play all night. Minnesota scored twice on the power play, once with the goalie pulled and in overtime.
"There's so much improvement over the last year," Lankinen said in late December. "Knowing tendencies of the shooters, knowing what the best shooters are like, what they like to do and how you've got to play certain situations.
"Looking back a year I'm happy about the progress, but I still know there's much more to improve on."
The Hawks got 2 goals from Henrik Borgstrom, the second snapping a 2-2 tie with 7:57 remaining.
A double minor by Jonathan Toews helped Minnesota tie things at 3-3 midway through the third period. After being whistled for hooking Ryan Hartman, a fuming Toews was then assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Kaprizov took advantage, one-timing a shot off a pass from Mats Zuccarello.
"Obviously got to keep my mouth shut. Hurt our team," Toews said. "You can argue against the officiating sometimes when things don't go your way, but we've just got to keep playing."
Said King: "It's emotional. You feel they missed a call down at one end and then you come back and kind of retaliate. That's hockey. ... His emotions took over."
• The Hawks placed forward Jujhar Khaira (lower back) and D-man Riley Stillman (left shoulder) on injured reserve. Khaira is retroactive to January 17. Brett Connolly was assigned to the active roster.