By Drew Davison
DALLAS — Going into Saturday, no team had a more difficult time killing off penalties than the Chicago Blackhawks. They ranked 30th with a penalty kill percentage of 74.4 percent.
Things are heading in the right direction, though.
The Blackhawks killed off five penalties in the first two periods and another late in the third period in their 5-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night at the American Airlines Center.
The six penalty kills are the most for the Hawks in a game this season and only the fifth time they have gone 100 percent on penalty kills in a game.
“Basically, it was one of those nights where you look at special teams was the differential, and our penalty kill led the charge,” coach Joel Quenneville said.
Chicago has steadily improved in penalty kills as the season has progressed. In the first 10 games, the Hawks killed 22 of 31 penalties (71 percent). Over their last seven games, including Saturday, they have killed off 16 of 18 (89 percent).
After Saturday, their season percentage has improved to 77.6 percent.
“It’s definitely getting better and better, and we’re getting on the same page,” winger Marian Hossa said. “It’s great to have a few games like that.”
The Hawks had to kill off three penalties in the first period, however gave up a goal two seconds after the second one had ended. They killed off two more in the second period.
Much credit, of course, goes to goalie Corey Crawford.
As Quenneville said: “He kept us in there early in the game on some kills.”
Chicago killed off five of its own penalties before getting a power play opportunity itself. Once it did late in the second period, it took advantage on a picture-perfect play that saw passes from Patrick Sharp to Andrew Shaw to Patrick Kane, who finished it off for the Hawks' third goal.
“It was frustrating with all of the penalties early,” Sharp said. “We were patient, and we capitalized on the power play. We knew it was going to come sooner than later.”
The Hawks capped off the night, too, by scoring a short-handed goal when defender Niklas Hjalmarsson sent in an empty-netter with 1:07 left in the game.
The power-play defense was one of the bright spots for the Hawks, though having to fend off six penalties isn’t great.
“I think the first and second period we kind of went along and got better as the game went on,” Jonathan Toews said. “There were some moments where we were sloppy. It’s no surprise when you come out a little flat like that you’re going to end up in the box.
“But we had a couple of good kills to keep us in there.”