Blackhawks storm back to drop Maple Leafs, end three-game skid

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Blackhawks storm back to drop Maple Leafs, end three-game skid

Ray Emery got the call from his coach as the Blackhawks walked off the bench for the first intermission. Corey Crawford was out, he was in.

And over the next two periods, Emery answered that call.

Emery stopped 23 of 24 shots in relief, Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist and Marian Hossa scored twice as the Blackhawks rallied to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks snapped a three-game losing streak and moved back into sixth place with 17 games remaining.

Andrew Shaw, recalled on Monday, scored his sixth of the season. Nick Leddy, who had two assists, took a hit late in the third but coach Joel Quenneville said he was fine.

It looked like the Blackhawks would be down 3-1 to end the first period, but Marcus Kruger scored with 29.5 seconds remaining to cut it to 3-2. The Blackhawks looked at that goal as one of the turning points.

I think it was the goal at the end of the first (that turned the tide), to be honest with you, said Kane, who was stellar on a line with Hossa and Andrew Brunette. You always stress the first minute of periods and the last minute of periods to try to not give up a goal or try and score a goal. It was a huge play, got us back to within one.

Emery took it from there. He was solid throughout and strong in the third period, when the Leafs fired 17 shots at him.

At the end of the day Ray did an outstanding job, Quenneville said. You look back over the year, you get some goalie wins. He was instrumental in us winning tonight.

Emery said it was a tough first for us, and as a guy whos coming off the bench you just want to play solid and give the guys a chance to take games. We played really well defensively the rest of the game and got some goals.

Kane was the catalyst on the other end, tying the game at 3-3 at the time and then later feeding Hossa for his 25th.

I think hes had some games where hes been doing stuff but the puck hasnt gone in. If the goalie makes a save, everybody forgets he had a nice chance and created something for himself, said Duncan Keith, who had an assist, blocked four shots and finished a plus-2. Hes been battling and its nice to see him get rewarded tonight.

Newly acquired defenseman Johnny Oduya got off to a rough start, being on the ice for the Leafs first three goals. But Quenneville switched the pairs, putting Keith and Brent Seabrook together and Oduya with Nick Leddy, and it proved beneficial.

I thought Johnny, the last 40 minutes was excellent, Quenenville said. He did a great job, great gap and had a good stick. I like his patience on the ice. Once we split up the pairs and tried another one, he adapted.

Adapting to the situation; the Blackhawks had to do plenty of that on Wednesday night but they found a way. It wont get easier, but the Blackhawks were reminded that, when necessary, the fight is there.

Were trying to get some wins here, get some points and finish out the season strong. But for sure, were desperate, Kane said. Our goal is to make the playoffs. Once we get in we know we can do some damage.

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, and have eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the playoffs three times from 2013-15.

But it's the Wild that NHL coaches believe will win the Western Conference this season as we approach the trade deadline.

In his annual midseason poll, TSN's Bob McKenzie surveyed 25 of 30 coaches to vote on multiple categories, such as the league's best player and the team most likely to win it all.

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According to the survey, 11 coaches predicted the Wild will win the West while the Blackhawks and Sharks tied for second with four votes.

As for winning the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals are the favorite, earning 10 votes, followed closely by the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins with eight. The Wild and Blackhawks rounded out the poll with three and two votes, respectively.

Joel Quenneville earned one vote as the NHL's best coach, which is three fewer votes than he had last year, despite this year being arguably his most challenging — and best — coaching job since arriving in Chicago, given the youth on the roster.

Extra incentive fuels Tanner Kero in second stint with Blackhawks

Extra incentive fuels Tanner Kero in second stint with Blackhawks

Incentive. For many young prospects trying to latch onto an NHL roster, there's already plenty of it there. It's a chance at playing on a bigger stage, a bigger opportunity for a career and, if you're on a two-way contract, a bigger paycheck.

Tanner Kero already had that incentive but in November, received an even more special one: he and his wife welcomed their first child, a boy. Now when Kero plays, it's not just what it means for him. It's what it means for his family.

"It's been a fun experience. It's something a little extra special that you play for," Kero said. "You get your mind away from the game when you go home. You just relax and enjoy that part of life. It's just something extra to play for and it's been special."

Kero has been making the most of his second shot with the Blackhawks, recording two goals and two assists on the Blackhawks' dads trip. That included a three-point night against the Colorado Avalanche and a building chemistry with line mates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa. 

Coach Joel Quenneville likes what he's seen thus far.

"He did a great job for us," Quenneville said. "Defensively, we like his availability in his own end. We like his positioning offensively. He had a nice couple of games to finish the dads trip but he's been good for us. I like the consistency."

Rockford coach Ted Dent said Kero started playing better in November, not long after Kero became a dad. Whether or not that had anything to do with it Dent didn't know, but the results were there nonetheless.

"I think he'd be the first to say his season started off slow with us and he finally caught his stride, maybe 15-20 games into our season," Dent said. "He was skating better, skating stronger, he had more confidence with the puck and things just came together."

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Kero's line is a good blend of familiarity, defense and skill. Kero and Hinostroza are good friends who played together plenty in Rockford. Hossa is... well, Hossa, and pretty much benefits any line mate.

"It's been good," Kero said. "We've been trying to continue, get some secondary scoring. But we also want to be relied on defensively, be counted on to play in big situations, a defensive draw, at the end of a period or end of a game. We're trying to focus on being good defensively, being simple and hard to play against. We're getting fortunate enough to contribute offensively as well."

Hossa, whose game-winning goal in Boston came off a Kero feed, said the 24-year-old is adapting well.

"Since they called him up he took it to his advantage. Right now he's playing the 200-foot game, [he's] real smart in our zone, doesn't panic, makes the right play at the right time, and he's showing more offensive abilities," Hossa said. "It seems like things are going well for him and we're glad we can help as a third line right now in scoring some important goals. With young players, that's definitely big."

Kero's made an impact and an impression with the Blackhawks. Quenneville said on Sunday that, even when Marcus Kruger returns from his injury, Kero will likely remain where he is – "I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

"That comment tells you the trust level he's gained in Kero," Dent said. "I knew over time that Kero was a player that Q was going to love. I've gotten to know Q over the years and in talking to him I know what he likes in players and it was just a matter of time because Kero's a responsible two-way player. He doesn't cheat the game and he's very aware of his defensive responsibilities and that's what Q loves, first and foremost. A lot of us coaches love that."

Kero is making strides in his second stint with the Blackhawks. He already had plenty of incentive to make an impact on this roster. Now a new father, he has that much more of one.