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Hawks feeling good after skid-snapping victory

by Dan Rosen /
NEW YORK -- The sound blared out of the Blackhawks dressing room. Flo-rida's "Good Feeling" reverberated out into the halls.

Indeed it was.

The start was better than Chicago could have scripted Thursday at Madison Square Garden. A penalty shot, a one-timer through the biggest screen on the ice, and a pair of breakaways. The Hawks went 4-for-4 in less than 10 minutes, including 3-for-3 in exactly four.

Losing streak over, emphatically.

"It's nice to have some music in the locker room," Patrick Kane told shortly after the Blackhawks finished off a 4-2 win over the Rangers to snap their 0-8-1 slide. "It's a good feeling right now. The best part is we get it over and we get to play Columbus on Saturday. That's the best part about hockey, you get to keep playing."

The Blackhawks arrived in New York very early Wednesday morning fresh off what they felt was their best performance since their overtime loss to Vancouver on Jan. 31. Oh sure, they lost the game in Nashville, never even led actually, but they were past heartache and feeling sorry for themselves and into the mode of taking positives out of what was essentially nothing more than their ninth straight loss.

But, the fact remains that they arrived in New York as the sixth-place team in the Western Conference, three and a half weeks removed from being No. 1. They arrived having to answer questions about their goaltending, team defense and missed opportunities.

They did by saying it wasn't about any of that anymore -- it was about banding together, talking it out, dealing with the frustration as a team. It was about them and their belief that they could win again, that they were good enough despite whatever most everybody on the outside was saying.

They finally proved it Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the unlikeliest of teams -- the normally stingy, gritty, physical and tight Rangers.

Good feeling indeed.

"It wasn't pretty…but the big thing is we got two points," said captain Jonathan Toews, who got the Hawks going with a penalty-shot goal 65 seconds into the game. "We know we can win. We know we can score goals. That confidence and boost of energy it gives you to know all the hard work is going toward something, it's a good feeling and we need to use it and build off that, not just expect each other to keep playing that way."

It took Chicago three and a half weeks to get a three-goal lead; it happened in exactly four minutes Thursday.

Toews' kept it simple on his penalty shot, a result of Dan Girardi closing his hand on the puck in the crease, and blasted a forehanded shot through Martin Biron. He knew how important the moment was before the official put the puck down in front of him.

"I try not to think about it in the moment, but it's a huge situation for us," Toews said. "We come out of a couple of games when we played really well and we just couldn't score, and if I don't score on that one the feeling on the bench, and maybe myself, will be, ‘What do we have to do to score?’ It's nice to get that one on the first shift and we follow it up with four or five good shifts after that."

Sixty-two seconds later, Marian Hossa went from one wing to the other to set up defenseman Nick Leddy for a one-timer that he sent through a screening John Scott. Patrick Sharp quickly scored on a breakaway set up by Toews and Marian Hossa added a breakaway goal with 10:22 left in the first period to give Chicago its first four-goal lead since its 6-2 win over Buffalo on Jan. 18.

"You're up 4-0 in the first 10 minutes; you can't get any better than that," Kane said. "Everyone got confidence out of it and was pretty excited. Everyone was pumped up for this game to prove ourselves, not only to win a game, but to show we can beat one of the best teams in the League. It shows this team has potential, too."

The smile on coach Joel Quenneville's face as he left the bench was the snapshot picture to take away from Thursday's win.

"Ya think," Quenneville answered when asked if he can finally breathe a sigh of relief. "Haven't had too many regular season wins that felt as good as that."

Of course, as Toews said, it wasn't pretty. The Rangers wound up getting two of the goals back. They nearly had a third, but the official blew his whistle before Ryan Callahan poked the puck into the net.

Chicago went to the penalty box eight times, including a needless double-minor by John Scott not long after the Hawks took a 3-0 lead. But they calmly dealt with it, killing off all seven of the Rangers' power plays, allowing only five shots on goal in the process.

Twenty seconds after Scott left the box, Hossa scored on a breakaway.

"It seemed like we were in shooting lanes, we had good sticks, lots of energy, we were battling to get loose pucks," maligned goalie Corey Crawford told after making 22 saves for his first win in nearly a month. "That definitely was one of the differences in the game, being able to shut down their power play. I don't remember too many tough saves I had to make on the PK. That was a great game for our PK."

Crawford, though, received the championship belt that goes to the Blackhawks player of the game after a win.

"I forgot we had one," he joked.

Yup, a good feeling indeed. Well, at least for a little while.

They're off to Columbus for a Saturday matinee.

"What we went through, there is always something to visit with this, knowing you never want to come back here again," Quenneville said. "There is progress, but we are just thinking about the next game, building off of today's win."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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