LIVE: Hawks lead Maple Leafs, 5-2 in 3rd period

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LIVE: Hawks lead Maple Leafs, 5-2 in 3rd period

Saturday, March 5, 2011
11:18 a.m.

Associated Press

Some strong play of late has propelled the Chicago Blackhawks back into playoff position.

Also playing well, the Toronto Maple Leafs hope to follow a similar path.

The visiting Blackhawks look to extend their season-high winning streak to eight games Saturday night and continue their recent success against the Maple Leafs, who have not lost in regulation in three weeks.

Two weeks ago, Chicago (36-23-6) had lost seven of 10 and was on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. Faced with the possibility of missing the postseason less than a year after winning the Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks have averaged 4.3 goals during their run to move up to fourth in the West.

Captain Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa are two big reasons why the Blackhawks are in position to win eight in a row for the first time since Nov. 9-25, 2009.

Toews, who scored 55 seconds into Friday's 5-2 win over Carolina, has goals in four consecutive games, scoring six times with two assists over that span. He has seven goals and seven assists during an eight-game point streak.

Hossa, who added two assists Friday, has five goals with four assists in six consecutive games.

Chicago avoided another third-period collapse by scoring three goals in the final 20 minutes against the Hurricanes. The Blackhawks have been outscored 74-65 in the third period this season.

"It was nice to finish strong," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "It was something we've been talking about for a while, keeping the foot on the gas."

Beginning a four-game trip against East opponents, the Blackhawks look for their sixth consecutive win over Toronto. Chicago is 7-3-0 against the East this season.

Keith had a goal with an assist in Chicago's 3-2 home win over the Maple Leafs on Nov. 13, 2009.

Though the Blackhawks have not lost to Toronto since Feb. 12, 2003, the Maple Leafs (29-27-9) are 6-0-3 since losing 3-0 at Montreal on Feb. 12.

"All these games are desperate right now and were looking for points everywhere we can," forward Darryl Boyce said.

Nikolai Kulemin and Dion Phaneuf each had a goal with an assist as Toronto rallied for a 3-2 win at East-leading Philadelphia on Thursday in its ninth straight one-goal contest.

The Maple Leafs, 10-2-4 since the All-Star break, are 10th in the East and four points behind the Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot.

"I think it's a little surprising to see them play this well down the stretch here," said former Maple Leaf and current Flyers forward Kris Versteeg, who played with Chicago last season. "Here's a team that really not much was expected from them. They've really showed the league that they're not going anywhere, and that they're forcing other teams to respect them."

Though Toronto has averaged 2.9 goals its last nine games, it's only given up 2.6 during that span. Rookie James Reimer has thrived during that stretch, going 6-0-2 with a 2.13 goals-against average.

"He's just keeping us in every game and we are trying to reward him the best we can," Boyce said.

Phil Kessel, who has eight goals with seven assists his last 12 games, scored twice in last season's loss to Chicago.

Toronto has been outscored 15-9 while losing three straight at home to the Blackhawks since a 4-1 win on Dec. 1, 2001.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Ryan Hartman defends teammate, but fight proves to be turning point in Blackhawks loss to Oilers

Ryan Hartman defends teammate, but fight proves to be turning point in Blackhawks loss to Oilers

The NHL implemented the bye week for the first time this season in an effort to give teams a five-day break before the stretch run of the regular season.

Entering Saturday's game, teams were 3-10-3 coming out of those games with many of those losses coming in convincing fashion.

Despite a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, the Blackhawks weren't one of those teams. They appeared to be reenergized more than rusty, and it showed in the opening 20 minutes of the game when they fired off 30 shot attempts (12 on goal) compared to the Oilers' 10 (four on goal).

But early in the second period, momentum shifted after Ryan Hartman came to the defense of teammate Tanner Kero, who was leveled by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba in the neutral zone.

Hartman skated over to Gryba and dropped the gloves near the goal line, afterwards getting tagged with a two-minute penalty for instigating, five minutes for fighting and another 10 for a misconduct.

"It's kind of a no-brainer for me," Hartman said of sticking up for Kero. "I tried waiting long enough so it wasn't an instigator but it's kind of a judgment call I guess, some refs call it different ways. Unfortunately it ended up in a power play for them, but it's something you've got to do."

Hartman said he and the official had a discussion about the instigator penalty for clarity, which was handed to him due to the distance traveled after the hit.

Hartman said after the game that he respects the decision, but teammates and coaches didn't necessarily agree with the call.

"Thought they both had an agreement," Jonathan Toews said of the fight. "It looked like they were both going to go at it. Don’t think Hartsy jumped him by any means. But I guess just because there’s a previous hit immediately before that, then he got the instigator there."

Said Joel Quenneville: "I don't necessarily know that he was going to start the fight. I think he went over there to talk to the guy, so you lose Hartsy there."

And it proved to be the turning point.

Less than two minutes later, the Oilers capitalized on the power play after Matt Benning's shot ricocheted off Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk's skate and into the net, putting Edmonton out in front first.

They wouldn't look back, hanging on to beat the Blackhawks 3-1, and getting revenge on a team that beat them last week 5-1 in their first game out of the bye.

While it may not have been an opportune time to do it, the Blackhawks appreciate Hartman's game and know more times than not, his energy will result in a positive outcome.

"We haven’t seen a lot of fights this year so, no matter what, it always gets us going, especially in our own building," Toews said. "I think the fans love that sort of thing, too, and Hartsy’s been going after guys who are a lot bigger than him this year. We love that fearless play and definitely helps our guys feed off it."

"Hartsy's a competitive guy," Quenneville said. "We like him to have that a little bit of abrasiveness and unpredictably so there's nothing wrong with that. We like the way he competes and what he brings us."

Power play goes quiet: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Oilers

Power play goes quiet: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Oilers

OK, another team lost coming off the bye, the Blackhawks taking a 3-1 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. But this wasn’t a bad-off-the-bye loss. Not even close.

The overall numbers of how teams are faring out of these bye weeks won’t improve. Tampa Bay lost coming out of its bye week, too. But you wonder about the individual cases, especially when the Blackhawks did so much right and came away with nothing.

Anyway, onto the notables.

What Worked: Most of the Blackhawks’ game. Coming off that long break you wondered how long it was going to take the Blackhawks to get their legs going. Not long at all. They challenged Cam Talbot throughout the game. They had momentum through most of it. They finally got a late third-period goal. They just couldn’t get another one. Coach Joel Quenneville thought the shot selection near the net could’ve been better, and it probably could have. But the Blackhawks wanted a 60-minute effort and got it.

What Didn’t Work: The power play. The Blackhawks were getting on a roll on the road in this department, going 6-for-12 on the advantage in their last five games. But on Saturday it was quiet. They had two power-play opportunities in the first period when they were dominating the Oilers. Nada. Same went for a third-period chance, when they were trailing 1-0. The Blackhawks were starting to gain steam on the power play on the road. It fizzled in this one.

Star of the game: Cam Talbot. The Oilers goaltender didn’t have a great game when these two met last Saturday but he made up for it in this one. Talbot was sharp from the start, stopping 38 of 39 shots, and what rebounds he did give up his teammates cleaned up for him.

He Said It: “I know we have so many games left to narrow that gap. We have them coming up this week. They’re ahead right now. It’s a good hockey team and they’re playing extremely well. We’d like to give them something to think about but coming off a great run off the road and let’s go back out there and try to get it going again.” Coach Joel Quenneville on still trying to catch the Minnesota Wild, who they’ll play on Tuesday.

By the Numbers:

900 – Career regular-season games for Brent Seabrook. The defenseman also had four of the Blackhawks’ 22 hits against the Oilers.

600 – Career points for Jonathan Toews, who recorded the primary assist on Richard Panik’s third-period goal. It was Toews’ 25th assist of the season.

26 – Blocked shots for the Edmonton Oilers. Andrej Sekera had six of them.

19 – Faceoffs won, to five lost, for Toews against the Oilers.