Blackhawks' balance, grit proves troublesome again for Blues

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Blackhawks' balance, grit proves troublesome again for Blues

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock knows playing at the United Center had been no easy task for his team in the past, and it sure wouldn't be on Tuesday night either.
"We usually get our a kicked in this building," Hitchcock said light-heartedly at the Blues' morning shootaround.
The Blackhawks and Blues both headed into tonight's matchup undefeated, but the way the Chicago began tonight's game proved they weren't ready to add a tally to their non-existant loss column. Their momentum right off the bat mirrored the same strength they showed in Los Angeles and Phoenix, and just like the Kings and Coyotes, the Blues were taken aback by it.
"The start killed us," Blues forward Andy McDonald said. "We took too many penalties, we mismanaged the puck early in the game, it seemed to take us a while to feel comfortable making plays in our own zone, plays in the neutral zone. Maybe a little bit of that had to do with how how the Blackhawks were coming, but we've got the skill to make better plays and manage the puck better than that."
Since the 2009-10 season, the Blackhawks have hosted the Blues a total of 10 times in the regular season, and only once -- a matchup back in Feb. 2010 -- did St. Louis come out of top. But that sure hasn't slowed the rivalry between the two teams. McDonald, who scored the Blues' first goal in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss, knows the Blackhawks' strong chemistry among their four lines is what gave the Blues trouble from the start.
"They've got a pretty balanced team," McDonald said."They have a lot of talent up front and a lot of skill spread out. They also have some grit and physicality there, so I mean they're a pretty well-rounded team.
"It's always a great rivalry between them and us and we look forward to playing them whether it's here or in our building. It's always a lot of fun. We've got a few more games, so we've got to get them back."

Vinnie Hinostroza, rookies pace Blackhawks past Avalanche

Vinnie Hinostroza, rookies pace Blackhawks past Avalanche

DENVER – Vinnie Hinostroza scored twice in the third period as the Blackhawks overcame a lousy second period to beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-4 on Tuesday night.

Tanner Kero had two goals and an assist and Nick Schmaltz had a goal and an assist. Marian Hossa recorded his 600th and 601st career assists.

The Blackhawks trailed 4-3 heading into the third period. Hinostroza became a one-man show, scoring on a breakaway to tie it 4-4 and then scoring again 3:01 later for a 5-4 Blackhawks lead.

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Looking for a scoring spark, the Blackhawks altered their lines (except for the second one) entering tonight’s game. In the first period it looked like it worked for the fourth line. Schmaltz got his second goal of the season for a 1-0 lead. Matt Duchene tied it 1-1 before Brent Seabrook put the Blackhawks back up 2-1.

But midway through the second period things got very ugly for the Blackhawks. Blake Comeau scored off a Blackhawks turnover at the blue line to tie it 2-2 and just 63 seconds later Matt Nieto, following a Blackhawks failed clearing attempt, put the Avs up 3-2. Kero’s goal just 19 seconds after Nieto’s reversed momentum and tied the game 3-3. But about four minutes later Matt Duchene scored his second of the night for a 4-3 Avalanche lead.

Kero added his second goal, an empty netter, with 10.6 seconds remaining in regulation.

Bulls can't answer Wesley Matthews' game-winner in loss to Mavericks

Bulls can't answer Wesley Matthews' game-winner in loss to Mavericks

It was believed the Bulls needed no extra motivation going against a Dallas Mavericks team that's a half-game away from being worst in the Western Conference.

The Mavericks gave them a 25-point shellacking in Texas last month, giving the Bulls enough film to make a horror show. Usually these instances even out over 82 games.

But this is no ordinary season for the Bulls, and the Mavericks again emerged victorious when Wesley Matthews got free for a triple on one end and locked up his college teammate Jimmy Butler on the other end, leading to a 99-98 Mavericks win.

It looked like another Butler special when Butler nailed a step-up, contested jumper over Matthews to give the Bulls a 98-96 lead, completing his 24-point night.

But Matthews was undeterred, breaking free on the wing for a triple when Dwyane Wade had to help Nikola Mirotic on a Deron Williams drive with 11.7 seconds left.

And on the final possession, the Bulls' spacing looked gummed up when Butler couldn’t shake free of Matthews, forcing him to pitch it to Wade, who put up a heavily contested 21-foot jumper from the baseline

It caromed off the rim, and the Mavericks danced happily off the floor for their first three-game winning streak of the year, this win completing a season sweep of the Bulls.

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Butler scored 24 with 12 assists and nine rebounds but was 5-for-12 from the field as Matthews was in his chest all night. Wade had a strong fourth quarter on his 35th birthday but missed 13 of his 21 shots to score 17.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 and Seth Curry's 18 as the Mavericks made 11 triples and had 27 assists, frustrating the Bulls.

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 20 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn’t have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The Mavericks played tougher and smarter with their personnel, and the Bulls got to see what happens when Wade or Butler can't save the day.