Hawks bite back in Big Apple to end losing streak

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Hawks bite back in Big Apple to end losing streak

NEW YORK That thud you just heard was the Blackhawks dropping a mammoth weight off their shoulders.

Jonathan Toews scored on a penalty shot 65 seconds into the game, and the Blackhawks got all their offense in the first 10 minutes of their 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night. The Blackhawks snapped a nine-game winless streak, collecting their first victory since Jan. 20 and their first road triumph since Dec. 14.

As coach Joel Quenneville put it, we havent had too many regular-season wins that felt as good as that.

Be it happiness or relief, the Blackhawks locker room exuded it.

Happy. I dont know what other word to use. That was just complete effort, said Corey Crawford, who stopped 22 of 24 for the victory. At the beginning of the game I dont think there was any tension or nervousness. It was just everyone knew what we had to do and we just went out there and played.

And it all started with Toews penalty shot, which energized the Blackhawks immediately.

If I dont score on that one the feeling on the bench, and maybe for myself, is going to be, What do we have to do to score and get things going? Toews said. It was nice to get that and we followed it up with four or five big shifts.

They also followed it up with a few big goals. Nick Leddys blue-line shot got through traffic, Patrick Sharp added his 23rd and Marian Hossa scored on a breakaway to give the Blackhawks a 4-0 lead just 9:38 into the game.

Everything went our way the first 10 minutes, Kane said. We could have probably played better after that but I dont think anybody cares about that right now. Were so happy to get the win.

The Blackhawks werent perfect but were definitely solid, from team defense to lack of costly mistakes the Blackhawks were credited with zero giveaways and nine takeaways.

And their penalty kill was pivotal, going 7 for 7 and keeping the Rangers quality chances to a minimum.

Still, it got a little interesting toward the end. Carl Hagelins goal brought the Rangers to within two with less than five minutes in regulation. But the Blackhawks didnt let down in this one.

They score that second goal to make it 4-2, and when youre in a 9-game stretch you start questioning yourself, Sharp said. But we stuck together and really sucked it up the last few minutes there and limited their chances.

The Blackhawks were happy, relieved and free of the weight of a nine-game winless streak. Theyre not, however, going to savor this one too long. It was one, and it was the first positive one in a long time. But they need to string a few more of these together before they start feeling really happy again.

It doesnt take an analyst to look at the stats and the standings and realize we have to play like that down the stretch, Sharp said. But our last two games and a few other periods during that losing stretch were really positive. And at this point, I think were just happy to get on that plane and feel good about ourselves again.

Blackhawks re-sign defenseman Ville Pokka to one-year deal

Blackhawks re-sign defenseman Ville Pokka to one-year deal

The Blackhawks signed Ville Pokka to a one-year contract on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old Pokka played in all 76 regular-season games for the Rockford IceHogs last season, recording six goals and 24 assists.

The Blackhawks’ defensive depth has already taken a hit this offseason, with Niklas Hjalmarsson traded to Arizona – Connor Murphy came here in the deal – and Trevor van Riemsdyk, selected by the Vegas Golden Knights, then traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. While the Blackhawks will probably explore free-agent options this offseason, Pokka could vie for an opportunity at training camp.

Blackhawks don’t extend qualifying offer to Dennis Rasmussen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks don’t extend qualifying offer to Dennis Rasmussen

Dennis Rasmussen was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Blackhawks, a source confirmed on Tuesday. Rasmussen will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Rasmussen was coming off a one-year deal worth $575,000. He was expected to be among those the Blackhawks extended qualifying offers – the deadline was Monday afternoon – but he was not.

The 26-year-old played 68 games for the Blackhawks this past season, recording four goals and four assists. He gave the Blackhawks some options, as he also played some wing and was part of the penalty kill. But he was a surprise healthy scratch more often than not as the regular season continued.

The Blackhawks will enter this season without Rasmussen and, if Marcus Kruger is traded, the team will have some holes to fill at center.