Marian Hossa scores game-winner as Blackhawks outlast Devils in OT

Marian Hossa scores game-winner as Blackhawks outlast Devils in OT

It was another first period in which the shots weren’t really there.

The Blackhawks have talked about shooting more, talked about getting away from waiting for the perfect opportunity to open up, but it was still absent through the first 20 minutes on Thursday night.

They turned talk into action by the second period.

Artem Anisimov scored his 10th goal of the season and Marian Hossa had the overtime winner as the Blackhawks beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Thursday night. The Blackhawks are now 3-0-1 without Jonathan Toews, who missed his fourth consecutive game with that upper-body injury sustained against the San Jose Sharks last week. Toews, as of Thursday morning, was also doubtful for Saturday’s game against Philadelphia.

“When they’re ready to play, they’re ready to play,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Every player’s different but they’ll tell you when it’s time and you know when they’re able and ready to go. But we wouldn’t put anybody out there who isn’t ready. In Jonny’s case we’ll make sure he’s clear – in a lot of ways.”

Corey Crawford stopped 30 of 33 shots for the victory. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Marcus Kruger each scored for the Blackhawks and Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith each had two assists.

The Blackhawks’ second period was more of what they’ve been looking for this season, especially lately: just shooting, driving the net and seeing what comes out of it. On Thursday three goals came out of it.

“Yeah, we talked about going into the game that lately we need more of a net-front presence and have to put more pucks at the net,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought we were much better in the second period, much better in the last half of the first period to get ourselves in the game. Crow made some big saves early, really kept them in our end there the first 5-10 minutes when were were in a lot of trouble. We got our game going and we were much more effective the rest of the way. But you don’t score in this league when the goalies see the pucks.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Devils goaltender Cory Schneider wasn’t seeing any pucks in the first few minutes of the first period. The Blackhawks were too busy trying to defend and clear against an energetic group of Devils, and they weren’t succeeding at it. The fact that the Devils only got one goal in those frantic early minutes – the first of Travis Zajac’s three on the night – was a credit to how good Crawford was again.

“Yeah. It was a rough start. I think they came out flying, played really good hockey and we were kind of standing on our heels a little bit,” Hjalmarsson said. “Crow kept us in the game and then I think we kind of started to grow and play better and better. As we’ve been doing as of late, we found a way to get it to overtime and get two important points.”

Yes, they did, and rather quickly. Kruger scored just 62 seconds into the second period, with Anisimov and Hjalmarsson adding their goals later. Hjalmarsson’s came not long after a bad turnover at the other end led to Zajac’s second goal of the night.

“I definitely owed the team that,” Hjalmarsson said. “That was a bad giveaway.”

After Zajac’s third forced overtime, it didn’t seem to be a surprise that Hossa had the final say once again. His 12th goal of the season was also his fourth game winner this season.

“[Patrick Kane] took the puck and just gave it to me at the blue line. I tried to hold, see my options and I didn’t see anything and I tried to shoot through the screen,” Hossa said. “I don’t think the goalie saw much. It wasn’t a hard shot, but I think I just tried to shoot it at the net.”

The Blackhawks found a way once again. With Toews out, it’s all about getting points any way possible. One way or another they’re doing it, and on Thursday, getting more pucks to the net was beneficial.

“During the intermission we [talked about] putting pucks on the net because we know there's a good goalie on the other side,” Kruger said. “I think we did a good job, from that being in traffic and putting pucks on net.”

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

The Blackhawks wanted to get off to a strong start this season because they know how hard it is to climb out of a hole in the Central Division. Last season was proof of that.

Well, they've picked up only one out of a possible six points through three games and are one of three teams still searching for their first victory of the season. But they're not going into panic mode just yet.

"We know there's things we have to improve upon," Jonathan Toews said. "Jeremy [Colliton] always talks about doing the right thing and over time eventually you're going to get results. I don't know if we can say we're doing things the right things that we want to and we're playing complete games right now, so even having said that, midway through the San Jose game and even against Winnipeg we were in a position to take control of the game going into the third period and we let teams back in. So I think there's a lot of ways we can play better.

"But having said that we're in those games and giving ourselves a chance to win. Obviously that's not good enough, but we're not going to freak out and say, 'we've got to start winning games.' Of course that's the goal, we wanted to get two points the other night."

The quest to pick up their first two points of the season doesn't get any easier for the Blackhawks on Monday night. The Edmonton Oilers are coming to town with a 5-0-0 record, and they're clicking on all cylinders. They have the second-best power play unit (41.2 percent), second-best penalty kill percentage (94.1), the NHL's leading point-getter in Connor McDavid (12) and leading goal scorer in James Neal (seven).

The Blackhawks know at some point they have to start stringing together some wins, but they're not living and dying by the standings right now because everything looks out of proportion. They're focused on the process and putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"It's always magnified at the start of the year," Colliton said. "Your special teams, you got [teams] with 100 percent PK, you got [teams] with 40 percent power play, and all the little things they look way bigger than they are. Would be nice for us to get a win, get some positive feelings but any three-game window among the 82, it's not going to be looked upon as closely as this one.

"So again, we've just got to focus on playing hard, playing the game the right way, do the right thing time and time again and we'll get the results." 

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Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Oilers

USA Today

Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Oilers

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they take on the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. He's 0-2-0 with a 4.63 goals-against average and .875 save percentage this season.

In 18 career appearances against the Oilers, Crawford is 9-7-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and one shutout. 

The decision is a little surprising, given how well Lehner performed on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets and what his career numbers are against the Oilers. In eight starts vs. Edmonton, Lehner is 5-1-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and one shutout.

"We're going to continue to ... both guys are going to get in," coach Jeremy Colliton said after Monday's morning skate. "They're both going to play. I'm not going to give you the road map, but today it's Crawford and we'll go from there."

The Blackhawks are seeking their first win of the season (0-2-1) against an Oilers team that's 5-0-0.

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