LIVE: Hawks lead Maple Leafs, 5-2 in 3rd period


LIVE: Hawks lead Maple Leafs, 5-2 in 3rd period

Saturday, March 5, 2011
11:18 a.m.

Associated Press

Some strong play of late has propelled the Chicago Blackhawks back into playoff position.

Also playing well, the Toronto Maple Leafs hope to follow a similar path.

The visiting Blackhawks look to extend their season-high winning streak to eight games Saturday night and continue their recent success against the Maple Leafs, who have not lost in regulation in three weeks.

Two weeks ago, Chicago (36-23-6) had lost seven of 10 and was on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. Faced with the possibility of missing the postseason less than a year after winning the Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks have averaged 4.3 goals during their run to move up to fourth in the West.

Captain Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa are two big reasons why the Blackhawks are in position to win eight in a row for the first time since Nov. 9-25, 2009.

Toews, who scored 55 seconds into Friday's 5-2 win over Carolina, has goals in four consecutive games, scoring six times with two assists over that span. He has seven goals and seven assists during an eight-game point streak.

Hossa, who added two assists Friday, has five goals with four assists in six consecutive games.

Chicago avoided another third-period collapse by scoring three goals in the final 20 minutes against the Hurricanes. The Blackhawks have been outscored 74-65 in the third period this season.

"It was nice to finish strong," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "It was something we've been talking about for a while, keeping the foot on the gas."

Beginning a four-game trip against East opponents, the Blackhawks look for their sixth consecutive win over Toronto. Chicago is 7-3-0 against the East this season.

Keith had a goal with an assist in Chicago's 3-2 home win over the Maple Leafs on Nov. 13, 2009.

Though the Blackhawks have not lost to Toronto since Feb. 12, 2003, the Maple Leafs (29-27-9) are 6-0-3 since losing 3-0 at Montreal on Feb. 12.

"All these games are desperate right now and were looking for points everywhere we can," forward Darryl Boyce said.

Nikolai Kulemin and Dion Phaneuf each had a goal with an assist as Toronto rallied for a 3-2 win at East-leading Philadelphia on Thursday in its ninth straight one-goal contest.

The Maple Leafs, 10-2-4 since the All-Star break, are 10th in the East and four points behind the Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot.

"I think it's a little surprising to see them play this well down the stretch here," said former Maple Leaf and current Flyers forward Kris Versteeg, who played with Chicago last season. "Here's a team that really not much was expected from them. They've really showed the league that they're not going anywhere, and that they're forcing other teams to respect them."

Though Toronto has averaged 2.9 goals its last nine games, it's only given up 2.6 during that span. Rookie James Reimer has thrived during that stretch, going 6-0-2 with a 2.13 goals-against average.

"He's just keeping us in every game and we are trying to reward him the best we can," Boyce said.

Phil Kessel, who has eight goals with seven assists his last 12 games, scored twice in last season's loss to Chicago.

Toronto has been outscored 15-9 while losing three straight at home to the Blackhawks since a 4-1 win on Dec. 1, 2001.
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Alex DeBrincat records third career hat trick, but Blackhawks lose to Blues in overtime

Alex DeBrincat records third career hat trick, but Blackhawks lose to Blues in overtime

For Alex DeBrincat, it was probably nice to hear Chelsea Dagger again.

But how about three times?

The 20-year-old rookie snapped out of a 13-game scoring drought in a big way on Sunday night, recording his third hat trick of the season. DeBrincat did all he could to help give the Blackhawks two points, but they only came away with one in a 5-4 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues.

DeBrincat is now the first rookie in franchise history with three hat tricks in the same season, passing Steve Larmer. His last two hat tricks came against the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 27, 2017 and Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 25.

"It's pretty cool," DeBrincat said of his third hat trick, "but I wouldn't be able to do that without the guys we have in this locker room and the linemates I've had. Most credit to them."

Entering Sunday, his last goal was on Feb. 17 against the Washington Capitals.

"Obviously it's frustrating when you go through a slump that like that but what I've learned is to stay positive and there's other things you can help your team win with," DeBrincat said. "Just kind of focus on those things."

He netted goals No. 23, 24 and 25 on the season, tying Patrick Kane for the team lead. He is also tied for second among goals scored by a rookie this season.

DeBrincat opened the scoring with nice wrist shot on the power play to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead midway through the first. With less than a minute to go in the period, he tapped one home in front of the net to make it 2-0.

In the third period with the game tied at 3-3, DeBrincat put his team in front 4-3 with 3:13 left in regulation. 

“We were talking about [DeBrincat] today, it had been a while since he had scored," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But whether he scores or not, he does a lot of good things in the game, and he’s very aware of his positioning, and doing the right things, finding pucks, getting in shooting lanes, or denying passing lanes. So he’s effective in a lot of ways, but nice to see him score a nice power-play goal today.”

But Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo even things up again after a shot from the point found its way past J-F Berube with 1:22 left. Patrik Berglund would net the game-winner in overtime to hand the Blackhawks a loss.

"I feel like we’ve played well and we just came up a little bit short," DeBrincat said. "I feel like that’s been the theme of this whole season.”

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.