Blackhawks

Hossa the hero again as Blackhawks beat Stars

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Hossa the hero again as Blackhawks beat Stars

DALLAS Patrick Kane saw just enough of Marian Hossa out of the corner of his eye. That apparently was all he needed to see. A quick behind-the-back pass to an open Hossa, shot, score, and the Blackhawks kept their great start intact.

Hossa had the power-play game-winner 1:41 into overtime, and Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews also scored power-play goals in the Blackhawks 3-2 victory on Thursday night. The Blackhawks, down 2-0 early, came back to improve to 4-0-0, their best start in 40 years.

Kane, who has been strong to start the season, chose pass over shot.

(Hossa) made a nice pass in the slot and I wanted to fake the defenseman; I was going to try to get a shot myself, Kane said. But he ended up just staying there. I saw (Hossa) out of the corner of my eye and it worked out.

Said Hossa, this was our first really big test, coming from behind, and we didnt quit. It was huge.

Yes it was definitely a test, and Kari Lehtonen was the man making life so difficult for the Blackhawks. The Stars goaltender was tremendous on Thursday, stymieing the Blackhawks and most of their 41 shots. But instead of getting frustrated, the Blackhawks just kept playing. And shooting.

It was almost fun to watch how good he was playing. I know its scary to say, Kane said. He was just making acrobatic save after acrobatic save.

Then the Blackhawks got a break when, on a second-period power play, Sharps pass went off Stars defenseman Trevor Daleys stick and past Lehtonen. Toews tied the game with less than six minutes remaining. Then in overtime, Kanes dazzling pass to Hossa finished the comeback.

We can talk about that one for a long time, coach Joel Quenneville said of Kanes pass. He had eyes behind his head because he saw Hoss. Everybody thought it was on the left side, including me, and he pulls that off. Hoss doesnt waste it; he buries it. Its a special ending.

Hossa, who knows Lehtonen from their Atlanta days, shot where the Blackhawks said they should target the goaltender.

We were talking about going low blocker on him and it seems like everyone went high glove, said Hossa, who beat Lehtonen on the blocker side. But he played unbelievable and we were lucky to get this win.

Corey Crawford stopped 21 of 23 for his third victory of the season, including a penalty shot on Ryan Garbutt.

He actually came in pretty quick, so I didnt have a lot of time, Crawford said. He went for the backhand and just quickly and tried to roof it. So I had to do the splits there and I just got a piece of it.

And Duncan Keith got a piece of another one. The Stars were looking to go up 3-1 as seconds ticked away in the second period and Alex Goligoskis shot trickled through Crawfords pads and toward the end. But Duncan Keith shoved the puck out of the crease in time.

It was just a quick play and happened to be in a spot where I could get it, Keith said. They moved it around well and (the puck) snuck through Crow there, but I was lucky to get my stick on it.

A little luck never hurts, but the Blackhawks deserve credit for continuing with what got them all those shot opportunities throughout the game. It worked, and theyre off to a flying start.

I think we had a lot of good chances out there, even though we were down by two, Keith said. We stuck with it, kept playing. We were opportunistic.

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

On two consecutive Saturday evenings the Blackhawks were looking for a little more offense. On two consecutive Saturday evenings they got some from Gustav Forsling, whose shots got through to either tie a game (vs. Carolina) or take a lead (vs. Pittsburgh).

Forsling isn’t the big go-to guy when it comes to points but he’s nevertheless getting them for a Blackhawks team that’s starting to find its offense again. But this is more about Forsling’s overall game which, not long after he made the Blackhawks roster last fall, plateaued. This season he’s been more consistent and more confident from the start, and he and Jan Rutta have formed a pair that coach Joel Quenneville trusts and has kept together for most of this season. The 21-year-old defenseman talked of working on the mental side of his game entering this season and said he feels the difference.

“I’ve been working on it this summer and I feel a little bit better,” he said. “[Just] more confident with the puck and confident in myself and pretty much everywhere.”

Quenneville has seen the difference.

“I think he’s getting better with his reads,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a better gap. [Being] quicker all over the ice is part of that and nice to see him pound one that goes through because his shot can be a lot heavier than it’s been and we want him to use it a little bit more, too.”

Forsling says he feels comfortable playing with any of the Blackhawks’ defensemen but there’s no doubt he and Rutta have been good together. The two clicked immediately, and at times they’ve been the Blackhawks’ second pair.

“I think we’re thinking the same way out there on the ice. We have a great conversation out there and everything’s worked out fine,” Forsling said. “He’s a funny guy and we get along well.”

Forsling’s offensive contributions are welcomed but so is his defense. When the Rangers were looking for the game-tying goal late in the third period on Wednesday, Forsling was on Corey Crawford’s left side to prevent David Desharnais from scoring it. Seventy-six seconds later, Artem Anisimov’s goal gave the Blackhawks a two-goal lead.

“Great play by him,” Crawford said. “For us, we want to cover the short side there and it’s great or him to get over quick and get his stick there. Definitely a great stop by him.”

Forsling’s playing with more confidence. He’s added a little early offense. The Blackhawks wanted Forsling to reach another level this season and so far, he’s doing that.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night:
 
1. That's how you start a game.

The Blackhawks haven't had the best of starts over the last couple weeks or so — aside from their recent four-goal first period against New Jersey. But they flew out of the gates in Pittsburgh.

Chicago recorded 27 shot attempts (11 on goal) in the opening frame compared to Pittsburgh's 13 attempts (nine on goal), and led in the even-strength scoring chances department 11-2.

Two of those chances were breakaways from Nick Schmaltz and Jonathan Toews, but both were denied by Matt Murray. The Blackhawks cashed in on one of two power play opportunities, however, and took a 1-0 lead into the second.

2. Power play strikes again.

Speaking of power plays, the Blackhawks came up empty on their first one of the game, but they were handed another one 44 seconds later at the midway mark of the first and capitalized when Gustav Forsling slipped one five-hole past Murray. 

It's the third consecutive game the Blackhawks have scored on the man advantage, something they hadn't done since Oct. 7-12 when they scored in four straight. It's also the second consecutive game the power play unit netted the game winner.

The Blackhawks are 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) on the power play in their last three games after going 5-for-53 (9.4 percent) in their previous 12. 

3. Should Blackhawks have pushed back immediately following Corey Crawford injury?

A scary moment occurred in the second period when Evgeni Malkin swiped Crawford in the mask while racing for a loose puck, forcing the Blackhawks netminder to exit before returning a few minutes later.

Malkin was given a two-minute minor penalty for goaltender interference, but should the Blackhawks have stood up for Crawford at the expense of getting tagged with a penalty themselves?

No question a power play opportunity with a chance to make it a two-goal game at that stage of the game — and against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions who hadn't lost in regulation at home this season going into the matchup —  is important, but the Blackhawks' lack of retaliation was a bit surpising. 

It wasn't a dirty play by Malkin by any means, but there's a principle involved when your goaltender gets hit like that. Those are the kinds of penalties you shouldn't mind taking, and at the very worst it would've been 4-on-4 hockey with one of Pittsburgh's best forwards in the box.

4. Artem Anisimov stays hot.

The goals keep coming for No. 15.

After the Penguins tied it up at 1-1 in the third period with a shorthanded goal, Anisimov scored 21 seconds later on the power play to put the Blackhawks back in front 2-1.

Anisimov now has nine goals in his last 10 games after scoring just one goal in his first 10 to start the season. He also has four game-winning goals on the season, all of which have come this month. Brandon Saad leads the NHL with five.

5. Alex DeBrincat extends point streak.

Lost in the shuffle was the Blackhawks' top rookie getting on the scoresheet once again.

With an assist on Forsling's power play goal in the first period, DeBrincat extended his point streak to four games. He has four goals and two assists in that span, and is averaging a point per game over his last nine (six goals and three assists).

DeBrincat also moved into a three-way tie with Richard Panik and Toews for second on the team with 13 points.