Blackhawks score twice in first period, hang on to beat Avalanche


Blackhawks score twice in first period, hang on to beat Avalanche

DENVER – The Blackhawks weren’t looking for a fancy outing in their first game back from the All-Star break.

They just wanted a simple game and a positive ending to erase some of the negative ones they had prior to the respite. Thanks to some early offense, they got it.

Artemi Panarin scored his 18th goal of the season and Richard Panik added his third as the Blackhawks beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks remain atop the Central Division with 72 points; the Dallas Stars, which beat Winnipeg tonight, are three points back.

Corey Crawford stopped 22 of 23 for the victory. Calvin Pickard was great for the Avalanche, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks were without Jonathan Toews, who was suspended this game after missing the All-Star weekend with an illness. Toews will meet the team in Arizona. In Toews’ absence, the Blackhawks pulled together in a collective effort to stave off the Avs, who came out strong in the third period.

“I thought we did a real good job,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Good start, lot of safe plays, [we were] positionally aware, had the puck a lot and checked well. I liked the contribution. A lot of guys were stepping up in bigger roles. It was a nice response to that last game going into the break. We looked re-energized tonight.”

Teuvo Teravainen was one of those stepping up, centering the top line for Toews. But it was another change on that first line – at least in the first period – that got the Blackhawks offense going.

“I thought we had a really good first period and they were able to capitalize off a rush. But I thought it was a great game for us, especially we hadn’t been much together since the break,” Duncan Keith said. “We talked about having a good road game, and I think we did that.”

Panik, on his first shift with Andrew Shaw and Teravainen, scored to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead about three minutes into the game.Panik played most of the remaining game on the third line with Andrew Desjardins and Phillip Danault, but had a strong night on both lines.

“Very happy, very pleased. Tonight he was really good,” Quenneville said of Panik. “He was technically aware. Obviously scoring is nice and he had some jump. I liked his thought process in the game.”

Panarin then added his goal about four minutes later, taking a pass from Patrick Kane and beating Pickard on the backhand.

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“It’s a natural chemistry,” Panarin said through his interpreter, regarding the connection he and Kane have. “[We] have the same style, good chemistry.”

The Blackhawks held the Avs to very little through the first two periods – Colorado managed just eight shots on goal through 40 minutes. Gabriel Landeskog cut the Blackhawks’ lead to 2-1 midway in the first period and the Avalanche picked up the pace, and the shot count, early in the third. Crawford had to be sharp in those opening third-period minutes and he was, stopping a multi-shot sequence early.

The Blackhawks didn’t need a fancy game on Tuesday. They were minus their captain and a veteran defenseman – Michal Rozsival was out with a lower-body injury and Viktor Svedberg, recalled this morning, had a good game in his place. They just needed to be smart and get a good outing out of that much-needed break.

“[The break] was definitely needed. We were definitely on fumes going into it,” Quenneville said. “But it’s nice to see us recapture the emotion and the pace and the strength.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?