Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 shootout win over the New York Islanders at the United Center on Tuesday:
1. Cam Ward bounces back
After allowing six goals on 25 shots in an 8-5 loss to New Jersey last Monday, the Blackhawks gave Ward a chance to redeem himself going into the break. And he did just that.
The 14-year veteran turned aside 34 of 36 shots for a save percentage of .944, which was his second-best percentage in a game this season. He stopped 18 straight to close out the game, including both shots he faced in the shootout. IT was a perfect bounce-back performance.
"We knew coming into this game it was gonna be on our minds for the next eight days here over the break, and it was important that we leave on a good note," Ward said. "I certainly thought that our effort was deserving of the win tonight against a very tough team that’s been one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. It’s a credit to the guys for the way they battled back despite being down, and to come up with a shootout win always feels good for a goaltender.”
2. Power play heater continues
What else can be said about the power play other than it's on fire? The Blackhawks went 2-for-3 in that department, with one of the goals coming during a 5-on-3 advantage.
It's the ninth straight games the Blackhawks have scored a power play goal and the fifth time in the past 12 games they've scored at least two power-play goals in a game. They didn't score more than one in any of their first 39 games of the season.
The Blackhawks are now 19-for-48 on the power play since Dec. 18 for a success rate of 39.6 percent. The second-best team over that span is the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 31.8 percent conversion rate. It's come such a long way in a short period of time.
"We got our confidence," said Jonathan Toews, who scored the second one. "We're relaxed. We know how to get pucks out of tough areas when we take shots or if there's broken plays. Everyone's just feeling confident that if we're mixing around or if I'm in the middle on the wall [Alex DeBrincat] can fill in or [Dylan Strome], [Patrick Kane]. We're filling different positions at different times. We just know where guys are and and we're relaxed. We know that if they dump it down it's no big deal, we're confident in our breakout. We're not forcing anything.
"We're doing a good job of wearing teams down and then eventually the plays work out. It's nice for us to be able to make a big difference for our team right now. For a long time it was almost not a great feeling. When we went on the power play it was almost taking the wind out of our sails, but at the end of the day it should be giving us momentum if we're not scoring. It's huge for us to turn that around. Sometimes when it's snowballing in the wrong direction it's really hard to turn things around and we've done that."
3. Buckling down
On Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, the Blackhawks gave up only eight high-danger chances at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com. The Blackhawks allowed seven in the first period alone against the Islanders, and 15 total — 20 in all situations.
That's an area the Blackhawks have been trying to fix all season long, and will continue to be a work in progress going forward. But they responded with a much stronger second period, outshooting the Islanders 18-7 and generating 19 scoring chances to their six.
"I did, I loved our second period," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Obviously the power play came through but our 5-on-5, I thought we carried the play and put ourselves in good situations a bunch of different times and I'd like to see more of that. I'd like to see us control the territorial battle a little bit more and make it easier on ourselves."
4. Rare first-period blank
Going into Tuesday, the Blackhawks had scored at least one first-period goal in 13 of their past 14 games. But the Islanders, who rank No. 1 in the NHL with a 2.42 goals against average, shut the door in the opening frame and held them to only nine shots on goal — three of which came in the final minute.
It was, however, the 31st consecutive contest the Blackhawks have played in where there was at least one first-period goal (from either Chicago or its opponent), according to NBC Sports Chicago's stats guru Christopher Kamka. Only three out of the 51 Blackhawks games this season have been 0-0 at the end of the first period.
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