Blackhawks hold off Blues, stay undefeated

987639.png

Blackhawks hold off Blues, stay undefeated

Patrick Kane hadnt been a part of a 3-on-0 before, although thered been some 2-on-0s in the past.

We had a couple 2-on-0s in Switzerland with me and (Bostons Tyler) Seguin, said Kane, recalling his EHC Biel days during the lockout. And we didnt score.

Tuesdays 3-on-0 had a much better result.

Kane scored on that very odd-man rush, and Corey Crawford stopped 32 of 34 as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in their home opener at the United Center. Brent Seabrook and Viktor Stalberg also scored for the Blackhawks, who opened their season with a 3-0-0 mark for the first time since the 1972-73 season.

And it started in the most unorthodox way, with Kane, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland skating unfettered toward Blues goaltender Brian Elliott. Kane and Sharp broke off at the end, with Kane finishing on the backhand.

Its something me and Sharpie talked about: if do get a 2 on 0 usually the guy will pass it off early or pass it around the hash marks top of the circles and give it right back, and its usually its an empty net, Kane said. Elliott played it pretty well. I had to bring it back to my backhand but it was a good feeling to score on that.

It was another great moment in an early season thats been full of them. The Blackhawks wanted to bring the intensity they had in their first two road games here for the home opener, and coach Joel Quenneville said they did.

Yeah, I liked the way we played, Quenneville said. They came on in the third and Crow stood his ground. It was a good pace to start and we had several high quality rush chances.

Yes. But a 3-on-0?

I dont know if Ive ever seen a 3-on-0 in our league. Youve probably got to go back a long time, Quenneville said. I dont know if they keep that stat.

Things got interesting in the third period, when the Blues were trying for their second comeback victory in as many nights. They outshot the Blackhawks 16-9, with Andy McDonald and T.J. Oshie scoring to make it 3-2. But Crawford would allow nothing more, closing the door on the Blues during a furious round of last-minute shots.

They definitely put some pressure on us, Crawford said. Our forwards did a great job, coming back and helping out our D with back pressure. They turned pucks over we were able to attack off of. Our D was doing well just to get the puck out and to our forwards. It was a little nerve-wracking at the end, but good.

The Blackhawks power play came through again. Crawford swept the puck away from the Blues David Backes on one end, and Duncan Keiths laser shot went off Seabrooks skate moments later for a 2-0 lead at the time. The power play, a punch line last year, is becoming effective again.

It starts with just good puck movement, Keith said. And we have two real good units, so maybe theres a little of that competitive edge to try and be good and have success. Its working so far.

Everythings working so far for the Blackhawks. Theyve bent a little but havent broken. Theyve avoided panic situations. Theyve gotten support from each other on the ice and its paid off in a 3-0-0 start. And this one was jump-started by a 3-on-0.

We knew they played last night and we wanted to jump on them early, Kane said. When youre fresh and they played a back to back, you want to jump on them early or jump on them late. It wouldve been nice to finish off a few, but to get one and get the crowd into it, its a good feeling when you play like that.

Jonathan Toews sets up game-winner as Team Canada wins World Cup

Jonathan Toews sets up game-winner as Team Canada wins World Cup

Jonathan Toews set up the game-winning goal to Brad Marchand as Team Canada rallied back to beat Europe, 2-1, to complete the two-game sweep in the final at the World Cup of Hockey.

After Patrice Bergeron tied the game with a tip-in on the power play late in the third period, Drew Doughty was sent to the box for tripping, giving Europe a power play for a chance to respond.

But midway through the man advantage, the Blackhawks captain retrieved the puck and carried it into Europe territory before dropping it off to Marchand, who snapped home the shorthanded game-winner with 43 seconds remaining in regulation.

It was the second goal in a span of 2:09, helping Canada capture their second straight World Cup title (2004).

Sidney Crosby was named MVP of the tournament after scoring four goals and seven assists in six games. 

Toews was fourth among all players in the tournament with five points (three goals and two assists).

Erik Gustafsson knows landing roster spot with Blackhawks won’t be easy

Erik Gustafsson knows landing roster spot with Blackhawks won’t be easy

Erik Gustafsson looked around the Blackhawks’ room at where fellow defensemen stalls would probably be as the season approached.

“You have Brian (Campbell) back, (Michal) Kempny here, obviously and all the other guys,” Gustafsson said. “It’s going to be tough, but I like it.”

The Blackhawks’ biggest Achilles heel last season was defense, especially after Trevor Daley was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That opened the door for young players, including Gustafsson, to get bigger opportunities. This year the defense should be stronger with Campbell’s return. So for guys like Gustafsson, cracking this lineup just got that much tougher.

During the summer, assistant coach Mike Kitchen talked potential pairings as Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson, Campbell-Brent Seabrook, Kempny-Trevor van Riemsdyk. As of now, the team is expecting Keith to be ready for the season opener. Keith has been participating in a practice a day but whether or not he plays in any preseason games is uncertain right now.

If it starts out that way, Gustafsson would be on the outside looking in.

But first things first: Gustafsson is focused on building off experience gained last season — he played 41 games, recording 14 assists — and cleaning up a few errors committed in training camp practices.

“You know all the guys on the team, you know how they want to play over here and in the NHL. Just go out and show them. I didn’t do that [Saturday] but this was the first game,” Gustafsson said. “I felt good with the puck but I have to play more defense in my own zone. Just a couple of small things I have to be better.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Nothing comes easy when you’re trying to make an NHL roster but it got that much tougher for a young defenseman with the Blackhawks this season. Hey, that’s the way it is, and players know it.

“Of course it’ll be tougher,” Gustafsson said. “It won’t be easy to take a spot. You just have to go out there, do your best and see what happens.”

BRIEFLY

- Patrick Kane could play in the Blackhawks’ game against St. Louis on Saturday. Assistant coach Kevin Dineen said, “don’t be surprised to see 88 politicking to get in the lineup. Pretty good chance we’ll see him on Saturday."

- The Blackhawks were off on Thursday. Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Marcus Kruger and Hjalmarsson were expected to join the team at Friday’s practice

- Alexandre Fortin, who signed a three-year contract on Sunday, played 12 1/2 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That included about two minutes of power-play time. Dineen wouldn’t mind seeing Fortin in another game. “He showed himself well all camp and I think [Wednesday] we saw some good spurts out there, and we’ll find that consistency in a young player as we move forward.”