Artem Anisimov was having a tough first few games.
The second line overall, really, wasn’t looking like it did most of last season. Sure, it was only three games. But the dynamic chemistry that seemed so instantaneous last season was taking some time to resurface this fall.
On Tuesday it came back in a big way.
Anisimov had two goals and two assists, including the game-winning goal, and Marian Hossa scored his 500th career goal as the Blackhawks beat the Philadelphia Flyers 7-4 at the United Center. It was a breakout game for the second line, as Patrick Kane added a goal and three assists and Artemi Panarin had two goals and an assist.
Kane said he figured it was only a matter of time until that chemistry came back.
“We had some chances tonight too. So I thought we had good puck possession, thought our line played pretty well for the most part. And Anisimov, he made some great plays as well,” Kane said. “We want to play with confidence. He scores, I score and things take off after that because you get some confidence.”
The second line needed that confidence, and the Blackhawks needed every bit of scoring they got, be it from that line or elsewhere. The Blackhawks looked dominant early as they took a 4-0 lead off goals from Kane, Panarin, Hossa and Dennis Rasmussen over the first 25 minutes, four seconds of the game.
But the Flyers had other ideas. And in a span of 5:26 from the end of the second period to early in the third, they scored four goals – two from Matt Read, one each from Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds – to tie the game 4-4. Two of those goals were power plays, adding consternation to an already maligned Blackhawks penalty kill.
“Yeah we’re sitting along in a perfect spot, take a penalty and it’s in our net, they get momentum off it and then score right off the bat. All of a sudden it’s 4-4 and we have our hands full,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It kind of reminded me of our last game where we’re in a really good spot and we let the other team get back in the game. But tonight we did some better things across the board.”
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Then came Anisimov, who scored the game-winning goal, his first of the season, 10:24 into the third. He added an empty-net goal with 45 seconds remaining in regulation. Anisimov is still struggling on face-offs – he won just four of 13 Tuesday – but clicking again with line mates should be a boost.
“We just tried to play simple. Simple game. And the momentum [came] our way,” Anisimov said. “We just get it done.”
The Blackhawks would like that penalty kill to get better. They’d like comfortable leads to stay just that. They’ll work on both of those things. But they’re also looking for some of their usual guys to start contributing more, and second line waking from its brief doldrums is a step in the right direction.
“We’ll keep building off what we did tonight,” Kane said. “Obviously every game’s not going to be like that but if you can play with the puck, have confidence with it and make the plays we were making all last year, hopefully we can keep moving along here and keep getting better.”