-- It wasn't easy -- and it certainly wasn't pretty -- but the Chicago Blackhawks
got what they wanted out of their first home game following a successful six-game road trip.
Despite almost coughing up a 5-1 lead midway through the second period, the Hawks finally held off the Central Division rival St. Louis Blues 7-5 on Tuesday night in front of 21,140 fans at the United Center.
Goals late in the third by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews finally let the hometown fans breathe a little easier after it started to look like the Blues (12-8-3) would make an improbable comeback.
"It was a dangerous game against a team that plays real hard," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Simplicity was the right approach. We did some of the right things, but then we got a little casual. We'll take the two points."
It was the first home game since Nov. 14 for Chicago (14-11-2), which went 4-2-0 during the past two weeks on its annual "Circus Trip" excursion out West. It was also a game that turned into a bit of a circus in the last two periods.
In all, the teams combined for 12 goals, 19 penalties, three fights and 60 minutes filled with scoring, hard hits and fisticuffs. Nine players scored goals and nine also finished with multi-point games - led by Chicago's Tomas Kopecky (1 goal, 4 points) and St. Louis' David Backes (1 goal, 4 points).
Toews and Kane both finished with 2 goals and 3 points for the Hawks - who also got multi-point games from Viktor Stalberg (2 assists), Patrick Sharp (1 goal, 2 points) and Brian Campbell (2 assists). Sharp also extended streaks of goals and points scored to five games with a goal that put Chicago up 2-1 with just 56.1 seconds left before the first intermission.
That turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg for goals, as the craziness really started in the second -- when Chicago scored three straight goals to take the commanding lead.
Then it was the Blues' turn, starting with defenseman Eric Brewer scoring from the high slot with 2:30 left in the second to make it 5-2.
St. Louis also got goals in the first 6:02 of the third by Alex Pietrangelo and Brad Boyes to make it 5-4 and prompt a timeout by Quenneville - whose face was nearly as red as the goal lamp behind Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.
"We kind of stopped playing there when we had a lead," Sharp said. "Seems like we've done that a few times this year. It's nice to see the response after the timeout. I thought we played better toward the end of the game."
That's when Kane and Toews scored their insurance goals to seal it.
"We took pride in going down there and being hungry around the net," Toews said. "We wanted to score goals and electrify the crowd and we did that, but going into the next one we've just got to be smarter and allow less (scoring) chances in the (defensive) zone."
The Hawks scored on three of their five power plays. They also got a solid performance from 19-year old rookie forward Jeremy Morin, who finished with a plus-2 rating and recorded his first NHL point by assisting on a power-play goal by Troy Brouwer in the second. After shooting the puck off the glass behind the St. Louis goal, the puck kicked out front in the slot to Brouwer for an easy tally after St. Louis goalie Ty Conklin had left the net expecting to play it behind the goal.
Morin, sporting stitches on his nose after the game, also got into his first NHL fight late in the third with Blues forward Chris Porter - whom he'd fought earlier this season in the American Hockey League.
Morin was called up to Chicago on Monday from Rockford of the AHL to replace injured Marian Hossa. He is also with the Hawks for the second time this season. This time he played strong hockey at both ends of the ice -- just as he did during training camp.
"It just shows that he wants to be here and he'll do anything to stay," Sharp said. "You've got to like the fire in him. He battles every shift and he's not afraid of anybody and we like that."
Hawks enforcer John Scott also squared off with Blues forward Cam Janssen in the first, while Chicago's Nick Boynton fought with B.J. Crombeen in the second - not long after Kane's first goal.
Chicago has now won six of its last eight games and appears to be hitting its stride after a topsy-turvy start to the season. Conversely, the Blues have dropped eight of their last 11 and took no consolation from making the Hawks sweat.
"Even with the deficit we were going to continue to allow the system to work," St. Louis coach Davis Payne said. "We were a little more aggressive on the walls, but beyond that it was plays going to the net. We got some tips. We got some traffic and it gave us a chance. We obviously needed to play a little bit longer before we gave up that sixth one."
Patrik Berglund also scored for the Blues, while Vladimir Sobotka added 3 assists.
Kopecky got things going for the Hawks 4:38 into the game with his third goal of the season to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. Sharp got to a loose puck off the dasher boards and slid a quick pass to Kopecky in the right circle. Kopecky then fired a quick wrister that beat Conklin between the pads.
Berglund tied it 1-1 at 16:59 of the first by tapping in a great pass through the crease by Sobotka - and that set the stage for Sharp to extend his goals streak by scoring his team-leading 16th of the season. Kopecky got the puck at the Hawks' blue line and got it to Sharp in the neutral zone on a perfect 2-on-1 rush. Sharp skated toward the net from the right circle, gave a couple of head and shoulder fakes before beating Conklin with a backhand from point-blank range to put Chicago ahead to stay.
After Brouwer's power-play tally made it 3-1 at 2:46 of the second, Toews scored his first of the game at 9:16 on another power play to make it 4-1 before Kane extended it to 5-1 less than two minutes later.