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.

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

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It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it. 

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

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