CHICAGO --It didn't take long for the Chicago Blackhawks to make their recent shootout woes a thing of the past. In fact, all it took was one more game.
After losing in a shootout to the Colorado Avalanche at home this past Saturday, the Hawks found themselves right back in another tiebreaker against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night in front of 21,247 at the United Center.
This time, however, Hawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane came through with goals against Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller to give Chicago a hard-earned 3-2 win -- its first in three shootouts this season. The win moved the Hawks (5-1-2) into sole possession of first place in the Central Division ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the first time this season. Detroit lost 4-1 at Columbus earlier in the evening.
"We studied the shootout," said Kane, who beat Hiller with a backhand move. "We studied the goalie today and it obviously paid off. (Toews') goal was beautiful. He waited (Hiller) out, put it upstairs. I tried to do something a little bit different. I knew (Hiller) was an opposite-hand goalie, so his stick kind of wouldn't be there when I came across, and it worked out I guess."
Kane, in particular, had a big game -- despite a giveaway in the second period that led directly to a goal by Teemu Selanne that put Anaheim ahead 2-1 with 3:38 left in the period.
Not only did Kane beat Hiller to end the shootout, but he also assisted on both Chicago goals in regulation with a pair of slick backhand feeds to Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa -- including a spin-o-rama backhand feed on the one to Hossa in the second.
Hossa, whose slap shot with one second left in overtime rang off the post behind Hiller, started that play with a pass to Kane in the neutral zone. From there, Kane carried the puck into the right circle, where he put on the brakes in front of Toni Lydman before wheeling backward and zipping a backhand pass through traffic in front of the crease to Hossa streaking for the back side of the net.
Hossa potted the easy tapper for his fifth goal of the season to tie it 1-1 midway through the second, but he couldn't help admiring the feed.
"It was a beautiful pass from Patrick," Hossa said. "He likes those types of things and that's his type of game. He can do stuff like that when it's his time to shine. He had an excellent game."
Kane's second assist was also highlight-worthy, as he scooped a loose puck in the Anaheim zone and slid a quick backhand pass to Patrick Sharp, who was wide-open in the slot. Sharp blasted a shot past Hiller to tie it 2-2 at 5:57 of the third period to help set the stage for overtime and then the shootout.
The two points were Kane's first in three games , a dry spell that was too long for his liking.
"It's nice to (score) two points," Kane said. "I'd be lying if I said that wasn't something I wanted to do tonight, but more important was the timing of the plays. It's nice to get back on the (scoresheet) though."
He'll also enjoy watching the highlights on TV, especially the spin-o-rama move that legendary Hawks player and former coach Denis Savard made famous in Chicago.
"It's an underrated move," Kane said. "I think you get acceleration out of it and protect the puck, too. I've talked to (Savard) about that a number of times, about when to use it. I've tried it a few times and it hasn't really come into play and worked, but tonight it felt good."
Picking up another two standings points felt equally nice.
Once again, Hawks goalie Corey Crawford was sharp – including a couple of key saves in the third and stops in the shootout against Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Selanne was the lone Ducks shooter to beat him.
"We have so much skill in shootouts, one-on-one," said Crawford, who improved to 4-1-2 by making 29 saves. "It was only a matter of time. We're professionals. We like to battle. We liked to compete. We weren't going to hang our heads after losing two (shootouts). We wanted to get the next one. Our guys were hungry and showed it."
Still, the Hawks did everything they could to end it in overtime -- including Hossa nearly ending it after Toews won a draw on a late power play caused by Bobby Ryan's high-sticking minor.
The Ducks, meanwhile, left town feeling like they let one slip away. Anaheim (4-3-1) had six power plays, including three in the third period. They scored on only one of the six, when Perry found Getzlaf open in the slot 58 seconds into the second for a 1-0 lead.
After that, the Ducks were unable to get one past Crawford on four more opportunities with the man advantage – something that needs to improve for a team that came into the game ranked 27th in the League. Among the failed power plays was one with just 2:10 left in regulation and the game tied.
"I'm not very happy about our power play so far, especially being in the top three in the League the last however-many years," said Selanne, who had an assist to go along with his goal. "We got the one power-play goal tonight, but the PP can win a lot more games and we have to be better. I think we have the tools. It's just a matter of time to get the job done."
This game was the start of a challenging seven-game road trip for the Ducks, who still have three more road games this week. The good news is that despite their winless streak extending to three, the Ducks at least got a point to start the long trip.
Next on the agenda, prior to playing the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, will be working on that power play.
"I thought we played a decent road game, but (special teams) is one area that we need to really shore up if we're going to have success on the road," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "Our specialty teams had the chance to win the game for us, and we didn't get it done."
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