Blackhawks try to avoid third straight loss on CSN


Blackhawks try to avoid third straight loss on CSN

Wednesday Feb. 16, 2011
10:19 a.m.
Associated Press
With desperation about to set in, the Chicago Blackhawks believe now is the time to string together some wins.

The reigning Stanley Cup champions can start by trying to beat a team they're chasing in the Western Conference standings.

The Blackhawks return from a disappointing trip trying to avoid a third straight loss overall and at the United Center on Wednesday night against the Minnesota Wild.

With less than two months remaining in the regular season, Chicago (28-22-6) has no choice but to get hot in order to defend its Cup title. The Blackhawks are 11th in the West, four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with 26 games left.

"We're looking for our own run," coach Joel Quenneville told the Blackhawks' official website. "Every game is huge, every game is important."

The Blackhawks, who suffered shootout losses at Dallas and Phoenix to conclude a 2-2-2 road swing, have lost six of eight. They're returning to the United Center for the first time since falling 4-2 to Minnesota on Jan. 25.

"We have a lot of character," rookie goaltender Corey Crawford said. "We need the points."

After Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Vancouver, the Wild (30-21-5) remained ninth in the conference. They are three points ahead of Chicago and one behind eighth-place Calgary.

Minnesota overcame a 2-1 first-period deficit last month to drop Chicago to 16-13-0 at home. The Blackhawks were 29-8-4 at the United Center in 2009-10.

The Wild, meanwhile, have won 12 of 17 on the road.

"They are playing very well right now," said Quenneville, whose club plays six of the next nine at home. "It's a very meaningful game."

Chicago has been outscored 8-3 in its last two home contests. The challenge in the offensive zone could get tougher if Patrick Kane is unable to play after dealing with the flu this week.

Though Kane didn't score in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Coyotes, he had four goals and three assists the previous three games. Kane has two goals with six assists his last seven versus Minnesota.

Despite losing four of five, Crawford is expected to start Wednesday. He stopped just 18 of 22 shots last month in his first career start against the Wild.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard had a goal with an assist and ex-Blackhawk Martin Havlat scored for the Wild at Chicago in January.

Havlat has that goal and three assists in six games versus Chicago since leaving as a free agent in 2009. However, he was held without a point for the second straight contest Tuesday as the Wild had their three-game winning streak snapped with their third loss in 12 games.

"We had a nice little winning streak and now we lost," coach Todd Richards said. "We have to regroup and come out (Wednesday) and try to start another winning streak."

Though Minnesota outshot the Canucks 29-14, it was stymied after totaling 11 goals the previous three games.

"It's definitely frustrating. We've been playing so well," Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner said.

Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck scored Tuesday, giving him four goals in three games.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Maple Leafs: Richard Panik stays hot

Five Things from Blackhawks-Maple Leafs: Richard Panik stays hot

This Five Things was headed for a lot of negativity before the final three minutes of regulation. But thanks to the Blackhawks’ third-period comeback, this one won’t sting as much as Friday’s installment.

So while you all celebrate the Cubs going to a World Series, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 5-4 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

1. Waking up just in time. The Maple Leafs haven’t played their best hockey in third periods – entering Saturday’s game, they’d been outscored 6-1 in that frame. But for 17-plus minutes of the third it didn’t look like the Blackhawks were going to take advantage of that stat. But they would, salvaging a point out of nowhere with two goals within a minute (Artem Anisimov at 17:32 and Richard Panik at 18:32). Better late than never.

2. The Richard Panik show continues. The forward said he doesn’t think about Toronto anymore, that it’s all about the team he’s with now. But looking at his celebration on his game-tying goal late in the third period, there had to be a little motivation to score against the Leafs, right? The Blackhawks don’t care who the opponent is, and Panik now has six goals to start the season.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Power play fizzles. Ah, thought we were going to talk about the other special teams? In a second. The bigger problem on Saturday was the Blackhawks’ advantage, on which they went 0-for-6. It took until overtime, when their fifth power play was a 4-on-3 for them to really generate anything against the Leafs.

4. Late-period goals hurt. The Blackhawks looked set to enter first intermission with a 1-0 lead but Tyler Bozak scored with just 14 seconds remaining. They could’ve had a 2-2 tie entering the second intermission but James van Riemsdyk scored with 1:44 remaining in the second. Again, the Blackhawks overcame that. But coach Joel Quenneville talked about the loss of momentum in games, and here are two examples of it.

5. The Auston Matthews show. The Leafs phenom didn’t score a goal on Saturday but there’s no doubt he had his effect. His speed was especially on display on William Nylander’s goal; Matthews drew several Blackhawks and Nylander had a rather open net on the rebound.

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

As the clock ticked down to under three minutes remaining in regulation, the Blackhawks were looking at more negatives than positives.

Their power play wasn’t working. Their penalty kill was 1-for-2 and they were trailing 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But just when it looked like the Blackhawks were headed for their second consecutive loss, they pulled out a comeback.

Richard Panik scored the game-tying goal against his former team and Artemi Panarin scored the shootout winner as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Leafs 5-4 on Saturday night.

Tyler Motte scored his second goal in as many nights and Artem Anisimov had two goals. Scott Darling stopped 30 of 34 shots through regulation and overtime. The victory didn’t erase some of the issues the Blackhawks still have, some of which showed in this one, too. But it brought some needed relief.

“It was a big win in a lot of different ways,” said Duncan Keith, who had two assists, including the primary one on Panik’s goal. “I know it’s still early but I think we were able to put some pressure on there. And anytime you get big goals like that late in the game when they’re needed, it’s a confidence boost and something we can build off.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The end looked like it was going to be frustrating, especially after William Nylander’s second goal of the night gave the Leafs a 4-2 lead about five minutes into the third. But Anisimov scored his second goal of the evening with 2:28 remaining to pull the Blackhawks to within 4-3. Just one minute later, Panik scored his sixth of the season to tie it 4-4.

Panarin’s shot in round three of the shootout, coupled with Darling stopping Mitchell Marner’s wrist shot, sealed it.

“Obviously we were down 4-2 and came back against a great team. That helps our confidence,” Panik said. “Everybody’s pumped about a win so that’s a good sign.”

The Blackhawks will take it but they know they had their problems in this one. Their power play went 0-for-6. That included two 4-on-3 opportunities in overtime. They allowed another goal on their penalty kill, although they did snuff out another Toronto power-play opportunity in the third period.

“It’s one,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We need several, several, several to get excited. But certainly that was, we’ll say, timely.”

The Blackhawks still have a long way to go this season. That penalty kill still needs work. They want more consistent play. But considering how this was looking with about three minutes remaining in regulation, they’ll take it.

“We’re certainly fortunate to come back in a game like that,” Quenneville said. “There have been a lot of comebacks in the league this year and we’ve given up some leads ourselves. That was a little different way of going about it. There are some positives but more so how we played in the third period. But we still lose a lot of momentum in the game. That’s what we’ve got to shore up.”