Monday, Jan. 3, 2011
Posted 10:37 PM Updated 11:58 PM
By Tracey Myers
LOS ANGELES Theres no doubt the Chicago Blackhawks felt the absence of captain Jonathan Toews when he missed the last two games with a right-shoulder injury.
They felt his return even more.
Toews scored the game-winning goal with five and a half minutes remaining in the third period and the Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 at the Staples Center on Monday night. The Blackhawks, who got off to a horrible start in this one, snapped a three-game losing streak.
Patrick Sharp scored twice, giving him 23 goals halfway through this season; he scored 25 all of last season.
For Toews, the game wasnt so much about his strong return as it was the much-needed two points the Blackhawks got. Still, the captain looked strong in his first game back, playing 19:41 and firing six shots.
And the winner wasnt even technically one of them. Toews was planted in front of the Kings net when defenseman Drew Doughtys clearing attempt hit off Toews and past goaltender Jonathan Quick with 5:27 remaining in regulation.
It was one of the luckiest goals Ive ever seen, Toews said. Thats the name of the game. If we can win that way Ill take it. Sometimes you need to get some bounces.
Defenseman Duncan Keith said Toews brings a lot to the table, and one of the biggest things is his grittiness and his ability to play down low, wear out their D. You can never have enough of that. Sure enough he gets the game-winner for being right in the paint.
The Blackhawks once again got off to a bad start. They were badly outshot in the opening minutes the Kings had eight before the Blackhawks had one in the first and were sloppy with the puck. Marian Hossas power-play goal near the end of the first helped offset the early messiness.
Then theres Sharp, who in a season full of Blackhawks ups and downs has been a steady offensive threat. His power-play one-timer off a Patrick Kane feed gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead in the second and his second goal came off a turnover he and Tomas Kopecky caused along the boards.
If we can keep the puck alive and give it to him on the power play, well see a lot of goals, Toews said of Sharp. Hes been great for us there and it doesnt matter who hes playing with.
The Blackhawks also needed to kill off some late penalties that they wanted to avoid before Toews came through with the winner.
The Blackhawks will take these two points. Theyll also take the health they now have with Toews back in the lineup.
Were finding ways to win the game. It was a pretty ugly 40 minutes but the power play kept us in it, Sharp said. We saw a lot of individual battles and our compete level was higher than in the past.
Praise for Byfuglien
Duncan Keiths noticed how well former Blackhawks teammate Dustin Byfuglien has done as a defenseman this season with the Atlanta Thrashers.
Byfuglien, who is averaging more than 22 minutes per game, leads all NHL defensemen in points (47) and goals (16). His play has earned him mention for Norris Trophy consideration. And reigning Norris winner Keith isnt surprised at that.
He can go wherever he wants and play however he wants to play. That experience on forward helped him, too. Now hes back on D and hes thinking like a forward a lot of times and playing defense, Keith said. Im not taking anything away from him. Hes been great. Hes a big reason why Atlanta is doing so well.
Sharp wasnt on the NHL All-Star Ballot and may not be heading to Raleigh, N.C., despite putting up 23 goals already this season. Still, Sharp said it doesnt bother him.
Its something out of my control and its something I stopped thinking about a long time ago, he said. Im happy to end this losing streak and that were healthy in here.
Fan voting for the NHL All-Star Game ended on Monday night, and it looks likely that Toews and Keith will be headed to the game later this month. Both were among the leading vote-getters in their respective categories throughout the voting. The All-Star game will be played Jan. 30.
Hossas goal snapped a 10-game goal-less drought, the longest of his career.
Forward Jake Dowell and defensemen Nick Boynton and John Scott were healthy scratches on Monday night.
Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.