CHICAGO – It wasn't perfect, but the Chicago Blackhawks did what coach Joel Quenneville hoped they'd do Tuesday.
They built a lead heading into the third period against the Calgary Flames at United Center and then finished it off strong for a 2-0 victory. After two straight losses that saw them cough up leads in the final period, it was a step back in the right direction for a team that's still playing without injured star forwards Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.
"It was a big win for us, especially after a couple losses where we gave up a lead late or a tied game," said Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who extended his point streak to seven games with primary assists on both goals. "It was huge to shut the door, especially in the last minutes of the [third] period and not give them anything. They had a couple chances, but when they did [Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery] did a good job shutting the door."
Nick Leddy and Brent Seabrook scored for Chicago (25-4-3), while Kane added even more points to his remarkable season totals. Kane leads the Blackhawks with 41 points (17 goals and 24 assists) and has five goals and nine assists in his current point streak. He also continues to spark the offense in the absence of Sharp and Hossa – who are likely out for the rest of this week and maybe longer with upper-body injuries.
"[Kane] had a special game," Quenneville said. "[Jonathan Toews'] line was very efficient and very effective, but [Kane] did have the puck a lot. He was very much a threat and dangerous."
Emery started in goal for Chicago and picked up his second victory in as many starts against the Flames (12-15-4) this season. Unlike the first win, on Feb. 2 in Calgary, Emery didn't get a ton of work. He only needed to make 16 saves, but he made several big ones late in the third to earn his first shutout since Feb. 1, 2010 -- when he also blanked Calgary while playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.
"It's always good to put a zero on the board, but I'm just glad to get a win," Emery said. "[It was] a good defensive game. They didn't really have any in tight chances or anything like that, so every time you get a shot you can see it. It's a routine save. Sometimes it's difficult if there's not action, but not tonight."
That's because the Flames were outplayed by a wide margin. Calgary, outshot 16-3 in the second period and 35-16 for the game, lost for the fourth time in its past five games and dropped its seventh game in the last 10 – keeping the Flames 14th in the Western Conference. The loss could also ratchet up pressure on Flames general manager Jay Feaster to make one or more trades before the pending April 3 deadline, including one for Jarome Iginla, the longtime face of the franchise.
This wasn't one of Iginla's better outings, either. He finished with no points, two shots and a minus-1 rating and had the puck deflect off his stick and flutter past Miikka Kiprusoff (33 saves) on Seabrook's goal at 17:48 of the second period. After the game, Iginla fielded numerous questions about trade speculation that will surround him until he is either dealt to a new team or sees the deadline expire without being moved.
"As a group we've tried not to add to all the talk, but unfortunately when you're out of the [Stanley Cup Playoffs] at the trade deadline, there's a lot of talk about whatever team it is," said Iginla, whose name has been mentioned in some circles as a possible target of Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman. "That's where we are right now, so in five or six days it will all work itself out with the whole group. Our job is now we play back-to-back [on Wednesday against Colorado] and it's just to be ready and be better than we were tonight."
The Flames have to improve off this game, because they were pretty lackluster from start to finish. Seabrook's goal put Chicago up 2-0 and culminated a period dominated by Chicago, which got 13 more shots on goal and drew three penalties resulting in power plays. That was after Leddy had already given Chicago a 1-0 lead 7:09 into the game with his career-high fifth goal, which he put through the pads from the left circle after Kane's pass intended for Dave Bolland was tipped by Curtis Glencross and went straight to him.
Kiprusoff had a clear view of the shot, but the puck kicked off the inside of his left pad and snuck past him. The Hawks outshot the Flames 11-6 in the first, but did let two more power-play chances go by without scoring, which continued a downtrend in production in three games since Hossa joined Sharp on the sidelines.
Coming into the game, the Blackhawks had scored just one goal without Hossa and Sharp in their previous seven power-play opportunities (14.3 percent) and the dry spell stretched all the way to one for their last 11 after a failed 4:00 advantage early in the second against Calgary. After going 0-for-5, it stands at one for the last 12 (8.3 percent).
Could the struggles be as simple as not having Hossa and Sharp?
"Yeah, that's huge," Kane said. "The key with [those] guys is they're familiar with the position and they always want the puck. That's always a good thing when a guy of Hossa's or [Sharp's] caliber want the puck. They're going to make plays happen."
Quenneville was pleased with the chances the Blackhawks' power-play units created against Calgary, but they just couldn't convert any into goals. Kane said that needs to change.
"We had the [power play] goal in Anaheim, which was a big goal, but besides that it's been kind of downhill," Kane said of Chicago's man-advantage of late. "We've had some chances, but still nowhere near the execution we need it to be. It's something we'll just have to practice and get better at especially before playoffs, because it's a huge part of the playoffs."
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