This victory over a feisty St. Louis Blues squad showed off the Blackhawks' skill, and a fair share of toughness and grit, too. It was something that hadn't been on display for a while.
"It's never easy in this building, but we played a solid road game, where everybody chips in, and special teams were big tonight," said Marian Hossa, who scored two special teams goals in the 5-2 win at Scottrade Center Saturday night.
Hossa's shorthanded goal in the second period turned what might have been a potential 3-1 deficit into a 2-2 tie, and once it got to that point, Patrick Sharp and Hossa scored the next pair - sandwiched around the second intermission - on the man-advantage.
It cooled off a hard-charging St. Louis team that had crept to within two points of the Hawks in the Central by going 8-1-3 under new bench boss Ken Hitchcock. And individually, it cooled off goalie Brian Elliott, who hadn't given up more than two goals in a game this season, while leading the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage.
Those two power-play goals, coupled with a 3-for-3 penalty kill (albeit against the NHL's worst power play), helped complete a hard-fought, much-needed four-point weekend.
"We knew we were gonna have to weather the storm," said captain Jonathan Toews, who was among five Hawks stars (Hossa, Sharp, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith) who drove this victory. "Killing some penalties, finding a way to protect the lead and play with urgency. It's a big win against any team, but especially against this team."
Especially, because, St. Louis plays it physical against the Hawks, and while the official hit totals seemed a little low for both teams -- 17-12 in favor of the Blues -- the Hawks gave back enough of what they took.
Referees Tom Kowal and Francois St. Laurent let each team push the envelope until things started getting carried away after Sharp's goal made it 3-2 with under five minutes left in the middle frame. On top of that, those that may not have highlighted the scoresheet pitched in with solid play in all three zones, with few exceptions.
"I thought across the board, we played excellent," head coach Joel Quenneville said. "We got contributions from everybody. Expectations were met. That short-handed goal really took us off."
The beneficiary of that solid, consistent defensive coverage was Ray Emery, who wasn't too bad himself in improving to 3-0-0 in his career against the Blues. What a difference two weeks makes after he had to dig the puck out of the net behind him on seven of Edmonton's nine goals in his last start on Nov. 19. That night north of the border, Emery was often hung out to try by a lackluster effort in front of him.
"That's a while ago, that last one," Emery said. "Those happen once or twice a year where it gets away early. You just gotta bounce back and not let it happen a second time in a row."
He didn't, and the team didn't after being the first victim of Hitchcock's Blues. It helped send about half the crowd home happy, as the Hawks enjoyed a big traveling contingent.
"It was nice to make it worth the trip for our fans here," Toews concluded.