The Chicago Blackhawks had some pent-up frustration entering Sunday night’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. They were struggling to score, especially in the first period. They weren’t playing their game and they weren’t getting the point totals they felt they should have been.
So the frustration came out in the form of shots, goals and a needed victory.
Marian Hossa scored a 5-on-3 goal on his 35th birthday, and Jonathan Toews’ score proved to be the game-winner as the Blackhawks beat the Oilers 5-3 at the United Center. It was the Blackhawks’ first victory since beating the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 3 – they were 0-1-2 in their last three – and it was the first game in 2014 that the Blackhawks scored a first-period goal (Ben Smith with his sixth of the season).
Patrick Kane had two assists and an own goal that garnered a few barbs from teammates. Andrew Shaw and Brent Seabrook also scored while Antti Raanta collected his 12th victory of the season.
Yes, it seems a bit petty that these are the Blackhawks’ problems these days. Consider it first-world hockey issues. But the Blackhawks don’t like even the smallest of lapses, and they came out determined to end this one.
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Still, they were trailing early after Ales Hemsky danced in and scored 6:08 into the first period. But unlike their last few games, the Blackhawks didn’t slump after that early deficit. And by early in the second period, they had all the momentum.
“I liked our game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We were down early 1-0 but we had a decent first period, and scoring in the first certainly helped us. We were playing with the lead mostly after that. We’ve had a tough stretch where we didn’t know what that felt like.”
Andrew Shaw was as rejuvenated as any of the Blackhawks. Centering the second line with Brandon Saad and Kane, Shaw was physical and once again screening or redirecting goals.
“I actually had a feeling coming into tonight we were going to have a lot of goals. Against Edmonton you have to watch it, though. They can score a lot and feed off that emotion,” Shaw said. “But I think the team played amazing tonight. All lines were going. We had chances left, right and center.”
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The Blackhawks turned it up in the second period. Just 29 seconds after the Kane own goal, Hossa scored on the Blackhawks’ 5-on-3 power play for a 3-2 advantage. Toews scored at the end of the period, a sweet deke for his 17th of the season and a 4-2 lead. The Blackhawks outshot the Oilers 19-6 in the frame.
“I think everyone knew we’d bring the effort tonight. It’s good to play that way when you outshoot the opponent like that and pretty much dominate the game,” said Kane, who had two assists. “I thought at the start of the second we played really well and started taking over.”
The Blackhawks were back to their brand of hockey on Sunday night. It’s not like it disappeared, it just went away longer than they would’ve liked. The road doesn’t get any easier, with Colorado and Anaheim coming to town later this week. But if the Blackhawks keep playing more like they did on Sunday, the road won’t be quite as bumpy as it’s been in the recent past.
“The team came out with the fire in its belly tonight. We competed for one another,” Shaw said. “We have to move forward and keep competing for one another.”