Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center on Wednesday to snap an eight-game losing streak:
1. First-period demons exercised?
The Blackhawks have been talking and talking about starting on time for the last several weeks now, and the more they talked about it the more they thought about it too much and it eventually crept into their psyches. But they finally put those to rest. Well, at least for one night.
For the first time since Nov. 18 — a span of 11 games and 24 days — the Blackhawks scored the first goal. And even better, they built upon it by scoring the second one, too, just 2:36 later to go up 2-0 in the first period.
It had been a long time coming and the Blackhawks finally had a chance to play with a lead after doing so for only 41 seconds of their previous 662:32 minutes over the last 11 games.
"It’s been a while since we’ve scored first in a game," said Andreas Martinsen, who was credited with the first goal and registered his first multi-point game of his NHL career. "We’ve been talking a lot about having good starts, and we finally got one. And then we just kept going."
2. Staying with it
When you're on an eight-game losing streak, snapping out of it will never be easy. The Blackhawks found that out the hard way.
After taking a 2-0 lead in the first period, the Penguins responded by scoring three of the next four goals — all of which were by Bryan Rust, who recorded his second career NHL hat trick — to even it up at 3-3 through 40 minutes of play. It tested the Blackhawks' character and mental toughness.
And it showed, as the Blackhawks answered back by scoring three unanswered in the third period, albeit two of which were empty-netters, to seal the deal for their first win in 18 days.
“It’s a relief," Jonathan Toews said. "It’s definitely just a good feeling for guys. We’ve got something to celebrate. We’ve got something to enjoy. We were reminded with an exciting reason to come to the rink in a few days and come out with the same effort. It’s something we’ve got to be aware of and build off of in the next one.”
3. Contributions across the board
The Blackhawks got contributions up and down the lineup, from their forwards to defensemen to goaltender.
Marcus Kruger, Martinsen, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook each recorded a goal and an assist. Toews had a goal and two assists to crack the 700-point mark for his NHL career. Patrick Kane extended his point streak to five games with an assist. Duncan Keith added one, too. Alex DeBrincat lit the lamp for the second straight night. And Corey Crawford finished with a season-high 40 saves on 43 shots for a save percentage of .930.
It was a well-rounded effort, one that makes it feel even better for the guys in the locker room when celebrating a true team victory.
"It’s always huge to pot a few," Toews said. "As an individual, it always helps your confidence. To see [Martinsen] and [Kruger] around the net and [DeBrincat] scoring the way he did, even if it’s on kind of a broken play or whatever you want to call that, it’s good for our power play. We’ll take those when we can. It’s good for our team. We’ve got to use that confidence now. We’re putting all that in the rearview mirror and let this snowball in the right direction now.”
4. Carl Dahlstrom's noticeable season debut
The Blackhawks made a series of roster moves prior to Wednesday's game, which was highlighted by the call-up of top forward prospect Dylan Sikura. But it was Dahlstrom who made a strong first impression on the back end.
The 23-year-old defenseman registered a primary assist, four shot attempts (three on goal), a plus-2 rating and one hit in 22:34 of ice time, which ranked third on the Blackhawks. Jeremy Colliton leaned on him heavily and clearly wasn't afraid to do so.
"He was good," Colliton said. "Very under control, he skates so well, such a big body, he can handle a lot of minutes. But I thought he was clean with the puck and he was able to get stops in D zone. Very good effort from him."