Scott Darling doesn’t mind seeing a lot of shots. Good thing, because it seemed like he was seeing a never-ending amount of them.
“It’s nice to see pucks. That’s a little too much, you get a little tired,” said Darling. “But better than seeing no shots.”
On Friday night Darling saw 40 shots, the most the Blackhawks have given up all season. Fortunately for them, he only saw one get past him.
Darling stopped 39 of 40 and Jonathan Toews scored his seventh goal of the season as the Blackhawks beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1. The Blackhawks gained four points in two nights, and now have a three-point lead in the Western Conference over the Minnesota Wild, who were idle on Friday night.
Artemi Panarin’s 16th goal of the season, a power-play effort, proved to be the winner for the Blackhawks.
For Darling, it was a little personal “redemption,” as he put it. He took the loss when the Blackhawks fell 3-2 in Carolina last week. But overall it was yet another game in which the Blackhawks’ goaltending was outstanding, and needed to be so.
“Pretty much same as always,” Toews said of Darling’s latest outing. “It's never an easy job to step in the way Scotty does. He's rock solid 100 percent of the time, pretty much. You look at the shot clock, (it) doesn't look pretty in our favor and it's a tight game. [He’s] able to protect a one-goal lead for a long time, so that's a huge tribute to our goaltender for winning there and coming home with those two points.”
One night after being proactive shot-wise vs. the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks were the exact opposite against Carolina. Credit the Hurricanes who, despite playing their second game in as many nights as well, looked like they were coming off a few days’ rest. The Hurricanes were energetic and kept driving to the net. Darling’s work, especially his ability to gobble up rebounds or push pucks off to the side, proved critical.
“I thought he was big,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “His rebound control was very good because they go to the net. They got some traffic in front of him and he was still able to sustain pucks with those guys right at the net looking for second opportunities.”
Toews, meanwhile, gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead in the first period. He and Marian Hossa had good chemistry with Vinnie Hinostroza, who was getting another shot with the top group.
The Blackhawks were once again living right on Friday. They needed their goaltending to be good against a very opportunistic Hurricanes group, and he was. Darling was busy, perhaps busier than a goalie would like. But he managed, and he helped the Blackhawks keep trending in the right direction.
“We need to get back to winning ways,” Darling said. “We don’t like losing and it’s not fun. We want to have fun and win and it was a fun two nights.”