Ryan Hartman’s hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Predators

Ryan Hartman’s hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Predators

Every hockey-playing kid has probably dreamed of recording a hat trick. The dream probably features every goal scored in dramatic or stylish fashion, hats reigning down after it’s complete.

For Ryan Hartman, that first career NHL hat trick was complete thanks to two empty-net goals. OK, probably not the way he would’ve drawn it up but you better believe he’ll take it.

Hartman tallied a hat trick, which included a reviewed game-winner and two empty-net goals, as the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Sunday night. It was the third victory in a row for the Blackhawks, who remain atop the Western Conference.

Artemi Panarin scored his 17th goal of the season and Niklas Hjalmarsson added his fifth, a career high for a season for the defenseman. Corey Crawford stopped 25 of 27 shots for the victory.

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But the story was Hartman, who continues to be one of the Blackhawks’ top rookies this season.

“I didn’t know he got that second one, so going out for the faceoff there at the end, I just kind of looked at him and asked if he had two goals. He said, ‘Yeah,’ so good for him,” said Patrick Kane, who had three assists, including the primary one on Hartman’s third goal. “He’s been a big player for us this year and he’s been very productive. He plays a good style of hockey that we’ve kind of been missing for a little bit. He’s physical, he draws penalties and it seems like he’s always on the puck. He’s had a great season so far.”

Hartman’s biggest goal was his first one, a net-front deflection in which the puck crossed the line as the net was coming out of its moorings. Called a goal on the ice, it was reviewed and deemed a good goal. As the NHL situation room stated:

Video review confirmed that the puck deflected off the body of Chicago's Ryan Hartman and into the net in a legal fashion, before the net was dislodged. According to Rule 78.4 "If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed". Good goal Chicago.

Hartman, who scored a slick goal against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, felt more like himself on this one.

“I think goals like tonight are a little more like me. I don’t know about the other night,” Hartman said. “It’s nice to get a couple of those where you don’t really use your stick and they kind of go off you.”

Corey Crawford said Hartman deserved that kind of ending, considering his block on Mattias’ Ekholm’s shot not long before Hartman’s first goal.

“Quick play out front and a one-timer right in the slot, [Hartman] sacrificed, went down blocking it comes back and he gets a hat trick,” Crawford said. “Everyone’s happy for him. he played awesome.”

Hartman’s first empty-net goal was a longer-distance shot that line mate Richard Panik was close to as it crossed the line. But Panik said he didn’t touch it.

“My first thought was, ‘I can’t take this from him,’” Panik said with a smile. “I was just trying to play the [defense] and it went in.”

Hartman’s hat trick probably wasn’t how he drew it up in his head but it was effective nonetheless. The Blackhawks are back on the right track following a slump around the holidays, and contributions like that are part of it.

“It’s a long season. There are going to be times when things don’t go your way and you don’t get bounces. There are games where the other team just plays well,” Crawford said. “[It’s just] sticking to it, not letting anything bother you, and keep playing the way you can.”

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

First goal with Blackhawks 'a release' for Tomas Jurco

Tomas Jurco's reaction to his first goal on Monday night was as much celebration as a little bit of relief. The forward, acquired by the Blackhawks about a month ago, had had a few great scoring chances in recent games but just couldn't capitalize.

Finally, he got that first of the season against Tampa Bay.

"It's kind of a release, you know?" Jurco said on Wednesday. "I've had a lot of good chances and it would just never go in for some reason. Obviously I'm very happy that it went in and hopefully this is the start of, I would say, more luck for me."

Looking for consistency in his own game as well as a consistent spot in the lineup, Jurco was looking for a boost of confidence. Getting that first goal could be part of it, as a bit of a weight disappears with that zero in the goal column. 

"That's a hurdle that can be in the back of your mind a lot and all of a sudden it could be a nice release," coach Joel Quenneville said of that first goal. "He's progressing in our team game, technically. Whether it's his pace of play or going to the right areas quickly, we're looking for progression. We saw it [Monday] night and I think he'll continue to get better off that. But certainly that should help him get confidence as we go along here."

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Jurco's been around the net, something the Blackhawks always encourage, for most of those scoring opportunities. Perhaps some of that puck luck wasn't quite there. But Jurco is gaining confidence in recent games, and getting that goal could boost it that much more.

"I've always said, especially in my case, scoring helps that confidence come easier. It brings that fun to the game," Jonathan Toews said. "Maybe if you're not feeling it or not playing with high energy, at a certain point in a game when you score, for some reason you get that jolt, you get that jump. For [Jurco], he's been playing well when he's been in, and no doubt that scoring a goal like that can help boost confidence and help him find his game, which we know he has and will continue to show."

The scoring hurdle has been cleared and Jurco is gaining confidence. Will he carve out a consistent spot in the lineup? Quenneville has some options through the bottom six. That, coupled with the Blackhawks playing inconsistent hockey lately and missing that four-line rotation, Jurco's been one of several who have been in and out of the lineup. But Quenneville said on Wednesday, "I don't see making constant changes once the [playoffs] begin." If Jurco keeps getting chances and capitalizing on a few, and if he ends up as part of a rotation that's successful again, he could stick.

Jurco waited a little bit for that first goal. He hopes it's just the start.

"You know eventually it's going to go in but it was just frustrating. Another game and another and another with good chances and it just wouldn't go in. So it's a big release," Jurco said. "Hopefully I'll keep going, keep producing."

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