Blackhawks

Stars shine bright as Blackhawks down Wild in Game 2

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Stars shine bright as Blackhawks down Wild in Game 2

Every team preaches it this time of year: To advance, the best players need to be the best players.

Right now, the Blackhawks’ best are playing accordingly.

Patrick Kane scored twice and Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews also added goals as the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 in Game 2 of their second-round series on Sunday night. The Blackhawks take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which now goes to St. Paul, Minn., for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Corey Crawford stopped 30 of 31 shots for the victory. There was a bit of a scary moment late in the third when Crawford took a Marco Scandella shot flush in the mask. Crawford looked woozy for a few moments after that, although he did make a stop or two. He switched masks at the first stoppage of play. Coach Joel Quenneville said afterward that Crawford was fine. Crawford said the same, but that the black mask was done.

“It was just dented a little bit. Whenever it’s dented there’s a chance the next one can squeak through so you just have to change it,” said Crawford, who bid goodbye to the mask. “Yeah, it was a new one; he gone.”

Kane’s goals were his 100th and 101st career postseason points. Duncan Keith assisted on Kane’s first goal and played just over 30 minutes.

Be it Crawford, the team defense or the offense, the Blackhawks’ best players were at their best on Sunday. They practiced patience, as is needed against a Wild team that doesn’t allow much, and took advantage of Minnesota miscues.

“I think it was our best game all the way around,” Quenneville said. “Good pace and energy from the outset, good pace to our game, defensively solid, all lines were consistent and we had a lot of offensive zone time and puck possession. We played the right way.”

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That started immediately, although this game didn’t feature the offensive fireworks of Game 1. Instead of two teams scoring a combined six goals in the first 30 minutes, as they did on Friday, it took 30 minutes for anyone to score in this one. Toews provided that first goal, a 2-on-0 short-handed effort, with Marian Hossa, to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead. With just 20 seconds left in the second period Kane, off a long pass from Keith, scored to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.

“It was a timely goal,” Kane said. “When you go up 2-0 you know they’re going to press a little bit and try to create chances going back their way. We did a good job, for the most part, keeping their chances limited there in the third and we made a great play in the neutral zone getting Sharpie that breakaway.”

Indeed, outside of Matt Dumba’s power-play goal 80 seconds into the third period –one Crawford would likely take back if he could – the Blackhawks kept the Wild at bay. About six minutes after Dumba’s goal they restored their two-goal lead on that Sharp shot.

“I just got the loose puck there and tried to put it up,” said Teuvo Teravainen, who had the primary assist on that goal. “Sharpie got it and what a great goal.”

[WATCH: Kane, Toews get the Blackhawks scoring started in Game 2]

Kane added an empty-net goal with just over two minutes remaining in regulation.

The Blackhawks could be happy with a lot of things after Sunday night. They won the opening two games of this series with arguably their best performance of this postseason. It won’t be easy in Minnesota; the Wild will be hungry to even the series at home, where they’ve long fed off the home crowd. But the Blackhawks like the way they’re trending right now, and their best are leading the way.

“We all have a lot of experience and we’ve been in these situations before. It’s good to have your top players step up and score some big goals,” Kane said. “We’ll take some pride in that down the road but I think that’s one of those things where you wipe the slate clean after every game and try to bring the best effort going into the next one.”

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

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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?