The Blackhawks have long had a tough time against Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov, a combination of his play and the lack of net-front presence hurting the Blackhawks.
But on Sunday the Blackhawks beat him often and the Avs soundly.
Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa each scored twice as the Blackhawks beat the Avalanche 6-3 at the United Center. It was the seventh consecutive victory for the Blackhawks, who remain in second in the Central Division with 58 points. They’re now just four points behind first-place Dallas, which is idle until Friday. Jonathan Toews had a goal and two assists. Corey Crawford stopped 34 of 37 shots in the victory.
Outside of their New Year’s Eve overtime victory against the Avs, the Blackhawks have struggled against Varlamov more often than not. On Sunday they had better quality of shots and, more important, bodies at the net. Brandon Mashinter, planted in front of the net, scored his second goal of the season. Kane’s first came when Artem Anisimov was screening Varlamov and Hossa’s first came when he was deep in the slot.
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“I don’t remember pucks going in against him ever. It’s the first time we were able to get some goals on him,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Nice night on the offensive side of things and we got the nice lead. That team, though, is still dangerous because they’ll press with six.”
Indeed, the Avalanche made it interesting early in the second. Matt Duchene, who always plays well against the Blackhawks, scored twice to cut the Blackhawks’ lead to 3-2. He would later add an assist. Then Kane’s second of the night, a power-play goal, gave the Blackhawks a 4-2 edge, and that was it for Varlamov.
“Yeah, you try not to think about it. Just go out and play the game, do the right things, no matter who’s in net,” Kane said. “But you could see a lot of our goals were right around the net, through traffic, screens, different things like that.”
Toews greeted Pickard with his 16th goal of the season for a 5-2 lead. Then Hossa scored his second of the night to make it 6-2. For Hossa, whose two goals were his first since Dec. 6 against Winnipeg, scoring on Sunday was a relief as much as it was a joy.
“Definitely. You could tell it’s been such a long time and definitely it felt good,” Hossa said. “I tried to work to get opportunities and the puck doesn’t go in, I try to stay positive. I’m glad tonight it went in.”
The Blackhawks had been putting up good offensive numbers lately but doing that against Varlamov has been tricky the past few seasons. On Sunday, they finally got the necessary quality and traffic to best him.
“He’s definitely had our number over these years,” Hossa said. “We’re glad we broke that streak and got a couple of wins and a few goals.”