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 agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

Blackhawks agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

The Blackhawks strengthened their organizational depth Thursday, announcing the signing of forward Nathan Noel to a three-year entry-level contract that kicks in next season and runs through the 2019-20 campaign. 

Noel, a fourth-round draft pick (No. 113 overall) in 2016, tied a career high with 24 goals — including six game winners — and added 26 assists for 50 points in 52 games during his fourth regular season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was sidelined for a little more than a month in December and January due to an upper-body injury.

The 19-year-old center has raised his game in the postseason, racking up eight goals and 18 assists in 33 games from 2015-17, including six assists in 12 contests so far during the 2017 QMJHL playoffs. Across four years at Saint John, he amassed 208 points (85 goals, 123 assists) in 242 career regular-season games.

Noel is teammates with forward Matthew Highmore, who leads the Sea Dogs in scoring and was signed by the Blackhawks in March to a three-year deal as an undrafted free agent.

Noel is an undersized forward at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, but he's a fast skater with offensive upside. He'll likely start the 2017-18 season in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs, who desperately needed scoring last year. 

Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz added to USA's roster for 2017 IIHF World Championship

Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz added to USA's roster for 2017 IIHF World Championship

Nick Schmaltz will be joining Blackhawks teammate Trevor van Riemsdyk on Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Championship, the club announced Thursday.

It will be his first career appearance on the U.S. men's national team and third time representing his country in world-championship play, most recently winning a bronze medal at the 2016 World Juniors. He scored two goals and added six assists in seven games during that tournament.

Schmaltz just completed his first professional season with the Blackhawks, where he tallied six goals and 22 assists in 61 games. 

After the year ended, he spoke about the possibility of playing for USA in this tournament and what it would mean to him.

"I think it's a great tournament," Schmaltz said. "You get to play with a lot of great players. Look like a lot of great players are going to the tournament, so it's definitely a big stage. It would be a fun tournament."

The roster now includes 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goaltenders. Among the other NHLers going for the Americans: Danny DeKeyser, Noah Hanifin, Jimmy Howard, Dylan Larkin, Anders Lee, Charlie McAvoy, Connor Murphy, Brock Nelson and Jacob Trouba.

Blackhawks forwards Marcus Kruger (Sweden) and Artemi Panarin (Russia) will also compete in the tournament, which begins May 5 and runs until May 21 in Cologne, Germany and Paris, France.