Mighty matinee as Sharp, Hawks cook Ducks

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Mighty matinee as Sharp, Hawks cook Ducks

Friday, Nov. 26, 2010
Updated 7:24 PM
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Duncan Keith's shorthanded shot looked like it was playing out in slow motion, the puck hitting off Jonas Hiller's inner leg before methodically rolling toward, and then over, the goal line.

But with that shot, the Chicago Blackhawks reversed their penalty killing woes and jump-started their offense.

Patrick Sharp had the game-winning goal and set up Keith's shorthanded tally as the Blackhawks scored four unanswered goals in a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday afternoon.

Corey Crawford was strong in net, stopping 26 of 27 en route to his third career victory over Anaheim. Niklas Hjalmarsson scored his first of the season and Troy Brouwer also scored as the Blackhawks found the back of the net three times in the third to cap a strong outing.

"We've lost a lot of games this year by just one or two goals in the third period so that was a huge win for us and our confidence to play like we did today," Hjalmarsson said. "We're on the right track here."

The Blackhawks once again had a strong start, outshooting the Ducks 13-6. But they gave one up on their first penalty kill, something that's been struggling on this road trip.

On the Ducks' second power play, however, the Blackhawks struck. Sharp grabbed an errant Ducks pass and threw it to Keith, who was charging toward Anaheim starter Jonas Hiller. It looked like Hiller had stopped it, but the puck trickled through.

"We gave up one early, but it was a great play on that Keith goal and we shut them down after that," Brian Campbell said. "Anytime you get a shorthanded goal it lifts your team up."

It did. The Blackhawks shut down that Anaheim power play, as well as the next three. They also took advantage of Ducks miscues. Sharp's game-winner, his fourth this season, came when he intercepted a bad Andy Sutton pass in the slot and beat Hiller for the 2-1 lead.

"You could say that's one of the bigger ones all year," coach Joel Quenneville said of the goal. "He had a great setup on the shorty as well. I like his production and what he brings."

Crawford, meanwhile, was stoic. He came up with some big stops en route to his fourth victory this season, including two on Corey Perry and another on Dan Sexton's early breakaway attempt.

"It was a good day," said Crawford, who won his third consecutive start. "They have a good power play and a top line that can break out at any moment. I was just prepared, trying to get ready for all of them."

Quenneville chose Crawford Friday because of his strong showings vs. Anaheim. Asked if Crawford could start Saturday in Los Angeles, Quenneville said, "we'll talk about it tomorrow," he said. "I thought he did a very good job. He's been very consistent. This one's big."

The Blackhawks' three victories on this road trip have been convincing ones. They were stronger on kills and offense on Friday. Getting that type of game more often is next on the list.

"It's nice to be up in the game and be able to keep adding on to the lead instead of it being so tight all the time," Keith said. "Every goal was a big goal, whether it kept our momentum or kept them down. We need to keep doing what did today, have that mindset, don't change anything."

Familiar pairs

The Blackhawks reverted back to their usual defensive pairs. Keith and Brent Seabrook were together again, as were Hjalmarsson and Campbell. The comfort level looked restored, too.

"I don't mind who I play with, but knowing what (Hjalmarsson's) going to do out there definitely helps us in areas," Campbell said. "We just figure it out. We mix well together."

Weight lifted

Niklas Hjalmarsson reacts after scoring his first goal of the season Friday afternoon in Anahaeim. Hjalmarsson doubled his point total with the goal and is a minus-4 on the year. (AP)Hjalmarsson waited longer than he wanted for his first goal of the season but was happy when it came on Friday.

"It's nice to see a puck go in; it doesn't happen too often for me," he said. "I had a bad start this year. The first 10 games didn't play well at all but the last 10 games have been better."

Exelby signed

The Blackhawks signed Garnet Exelby to a contract and assigned him back to the Rockford IceHogs on Friday. Exelby, the Rockford captain, had been with the organization on a player tryout contract prior to Friday's signing.
Briefly

Seabrook is OK after taking a puck to the groin area for the second consecutive game. "I'm just trying to get in front of shots and do what I can to block them. This one deflected off my stick and went off my leg. It didn't feel too good." ... Keith's short-handed goal was the fifth of his career. He's third among active NHL defensemen in that category, behind Nicklas Lidstrom (10) and Adam Foote (6).

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Resilient Wild make statement with comeback win over Blackhawks

Resilient Wild make statement with comeback win over Blackhawks

The Minnesota Wild have been chasing the Blackhawks for a long time.

They may not be so far away now.

After falling behind 2-0, the Wild scored three unanswered goals to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 at the United Center on Sunday night, and moved into sole possession of first place in the Central Division and Western Conference with 61 points, and still have four games in hand.

But even the Wild had to remind themselves that they're on the same playing surface as the Blackhawks, who eliminated Minnesota from the playoffs for three consecutive seasons from 2013-15, two of which were en route to Stanley Cup wins.

"We were pretty slow," coach Bruce Boudreau said about the team's first period. "I thought we were in a little bit of quick sand. We watched them play. I think it was a little bit more [we were] in awe. It's the Chicago Blackhawks, we're supposed to be in awe."

When they snapped out of it, the Wild looked like the team that has become one of the NHL's best, having now won 17 of their last 19 games.

Wild nemesis Patrick Kane scored the game's first two goals, but Minnesota displayed the type of resiliency every contender needs by evening it up in the second period thanks to a power-play goal by Nino Neiderreiter — his third goal in as many games — and Chris Stewart, who found the back of the net for the second consecutive contest.

Jason Pominville, who hadn't scored in 19 straight games, registered the game-winner early in the third period to cap off a Wild victory. It's Minnesota's eighth straight win against Chicago, a feat that even its coach can't explain.

"To beat this team eight times in a row is really something," Boudreau said. "I don't understand how you could do it. I wish I would have had that knowledge a couple years ago. But it's a new year and it's just one in a row right now."

That's one of many reasons why the Wild have been so successful this season. They're taking it one game at a time, and no matter what the score is, they continue to play the same way and have the belief they can win any game.

Less than 24 hours before their win over the Blackhawks, the Wild jumped out to a 4-0 lead in Dallas and squandered it in the third period. They found a way to bounce back, however, to take home a 5-4 victory in regulation.

So, how do they keep doing it?

"I don't know," Boudreau responded. "We're supposed to. If you want to win, you've got to come back, right? You got to believe. I think the biggest thing is believing you can, and that's the first step. If you don't believe you can come back, you never come back. If you always believe there's a chance, there's a good chance you can do it."

Said Stewart: "I just think we're a confident bunch. We believe in ourselves. We know we didn't get the start that we wanted, but we got one to crawl back in it and all this team needs is a little bit of life."

There's no better measuring stick than to beat a team in your division that's won three championships since 2010, and has been powerhouses in the West for nearly a decade.

And it's something the Wild hope — and believe — they're in the process of achieving.

"It's always a big rival," Neiderreiter said. "You always want to beat the Hawks. They won a few Stanley Cup in the past few years, and that's something we want to accomplish someday. To do that, we have to make sure we beat top teams like that."

Five Things from Blackhawks-Wild: Start strong, finish fizzles

Five Things from Blackhawks-Wild: Start strong, finish fizzles

Well, that weekend didn't go as planned.

The Blackhawks played a lot better on Sunday night but suffered the same fate as Friday, coming away with no points and losing first place in the Western Conference in their 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

Let's dispense with the frivolities. Here are Five Things to take away from the Blackhawks' loss to Minnesota.

1. Strong start. The Blackhawks needed to come out strong in this one, mainly because their Friday game against the Washington Capitals was so bad but also because the Wild were coming off a frenzied 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night. The Blackhawks got the appropriate start, outshooting the Wild 14-8 and leading 1-0 on Patrick Kane's goal. Speaking of which… 

2. Kane with the great evening. The Blackhawks dressing seven defensemen meant one thing: Kane was probably going to get a lot of ice time. That he did, double-shifting with the second and fourth lines in the first period and giving the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead with first- and second-period goals. Kane finished with a career-high 12 shots on goal in 27:09 of ice time. "You know you're going to play a lot. I don't know if [27] minutes is that amount you want to be playing, but at the same time, you're not going to say no when he calls you to go out there too," Kane said.

3. The Wild respond in the second. Minnesota didn't have the best start but they regained momentum and erased a deficit in the second period. It's not that their chances were that much better than the Blackhawks – it was a fairly even period in every way, from shots on goal (16-15 Blackhawks) to overall play. But coach Joel Quenneville didn't like how the Blackhawks played on Nino Niederreiter or Chris Stewart's goals, calling the mistakes made on them, "cardinal sins."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Quiet night for the top line. Outside of Marian Hossa, the Blackhawks' top line didn't do much on Sunday night. Hossa had two shots on goal. Jonathan Toews had none, as it was another too-quiet night for the Blackhawks' captain. 

5. Minnesota keeps the rivalry edge. Remember those three consecutive springs in which the Blackhawks dispatched the Wild? Well, the past two seasons may not be equal in payback terms but the Wild are nevertheless tilting the rivalry – at least in regular-season games – in their favor. The Wild won all five games last season and took the first of this season, as well. Minnesota made some good offseason moves, including acquiring Eric Staal in July. Full marks to the Wild: right now, they are the cream of the Western Conference crop.