Phillip Danault's game-winner lifts Blackhawks to sixth straight win


Phillip Danault's game-winner lifts Blackhawks to sixth straight win

Lately, Phillip Danault felt like he was close to scoring his first career NHL goal.

He’d had his chances, his close calls. It was only a matter of time. And on Friday, his timing couldn’t have been better.

Danault’s first goal proved to be the game-winner, as the Blackhawks beat the Buffalo Sabres, 3-1, on Friday night. It was a strong end for the Blackhawks, who have won a season-high six consecutive games. They remain in second place in the Central Division

Niklas Hjalmarsson had a goal — his second of the season — and an assist. Corey Crawford stopped 28 of 29 shots for the victory. Jonathan Toews added an empty-net goal with 24.5 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Blackhawks and Sabres were tied, 1-1, with about five minutes remaining in regulation when Danault slipped past a Sabres player and beat Chad Johnson top shelf. For Danault, whose first game this season was against the Sabres in Buffalo on Dec. 19, that first goal couldn’t have been any better — or bigger.

“Yeah, honestly the last three to four games I felt like it was coming,” Danault said. “It ended up going in today, and it feels great.”

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Danault was frustrated for another reason a few minutes prior to that. He and line mates Andrew Desjardins and Teuvo Teravainen were on the ice when Ryan O’Reilly tied the game at 11:37 of the third. But coach Joel Quenneville threw that line back out there fewer than four minutes later, leading to Danault’s goal.

“I was trying to remember the last time (that line) gave up a goal. Things can happen. But I liked the response,” Quenneville said. “You get a goal like that it really can lift your team and the timing of it. He made a nice play earlier on a comparable play when he went off the rush, but great move on the individual rush off the defense, made a quick shot short side. The timing was great. It turned out to be a huge win for us, as well, and congrats to him.”

Hjalmarsson gave the Blackhawks the early lead off a pass from another young guy who’s played very well: Erik Gustafsson.

“That’s the one thing that stands out with him is the confidence he plays with. It’s really impressive,” Hjalmarsson said. “The pass he made to me, I never thought I was going to get the puck actually. I was very surprised. He’s another guy who’s been playing really well for us.”

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The Blackhawks are playing with that confidence throughout the lineup right now. Things are coming together. They’re playing well defensively and getting just enough offense. The start of the season had its rough moments, but the Blackhawks are finding their way. And a couple of young guys are adding big contributions.

“It’s a big achievement,” Danault said of his first goal. “I’ve been working hard a lot, and it happened today.”

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.