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Hawks start trip with 5-0 win at Edmonton

by Robin Brownlee
EDMONTON -- Jonathan Toews helped the Chicago Blackhawks get their annual "Circus Trip" off to a fast start, scoring three goals to lead the Hawks to a 5-0 rout of the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.

The 22-year-old Chicago captain opened his team's longest road trip of the season, a six-game swing during the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus' annual visit to the United Center, by scoring the first three goals of the game to lead the Blackhawks to their fifth consecutive victory at Rexall Place.

Maybe not "The Greatest Show On Earth," but it was just what the Blackhawks needed.

"All in all, we really played solid and it's a game we can really build off," Toews said. "That's two good games in a row for us as a team and, personally, I just want to keep playing that way."

The hat trick by Toews, the second three-goal game of his NHL career, and Marty Turco's 41st career shutout not only kicked off a pivotal road trip for the Blackhawks, it provided a measure of payback for two home losses to the Oilers -- 7-4 on Oct. 29 and 2-1 on Nov. 7.

The Hawks definitely were conscious of the fact that they had lost twice at home to one of the NHL's weakest teams -- and were determined that it wouldn't happen again.

"We weren't going to go out there and try to do everything and take on the world in the first period, but we definitely remember those two games," Toews said.

"We weren't happy. Regardless of who we were playing, we weren't playing well enough at home. We're playing better hockey now."

This was the first game at home the Oilers after a five-game road trip that saw them win just once -- the 2-1 victory at Chicago -- and get outscored 26-10. It was a swing saw them follow the win with a 6-2 loss in Detroit, a 7-1 drubbing in Carolina and ended with an 8-2 spanking from the New York Rangers on Sunday.

This one was more embarrassment for the Oilers, who have lost five straight games at home, are winless in their last five games overall and have given up 12 unanswered goals since taking a 2-1 lead early in the second period in the loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. They managed only 18 shots at Turco, who was rarely tested.

"There is a contagious look to our turnover game, quite honestly," coach Tom Renney said after another mistake-filled effort. "When you think you've got the leak plugged here, it springs somewhere else. You have to deal with those things."

Toews, who'd gone pointless in his last four games, banged the rebound of Brent Seabrook's shot past Nikolai Khabibulin from in tight to open the scoring at 14:24. He scored his second goal on a power play with 46 seconds left in the period when his pass attempt in front deflected off Tom Gilbert's skate into the net to make it 2-0.

Just like that, the Oilers, outshot 20-4 in the period and outscored 28-12 in first periods after the pair by Toews, had dug themselves the early hole they'd talked at great length about avoiding.

"Toews got those two goals and we just kind of sat back," rookie Taylor Hall said. "Good teams, they keep going after you no matter that the score is. That's something we need to develop.

"It was tough when something like that 2-0 goals happens. It's just a bad break and it's not the first time it's happened. At the same time, we have to recover from those kind of goals better."

When Toews completed his natural hat trick by taking a pass from Marian Hossa and snapping a shot low to the glove side past Khabibulin 1:12 into the second period, the Oilers were reeling.

Patrick Sharp sent the Blackhawks to the second intermission up 4-0 with a shorthanded goal at 18:57. When the Oilers emerged for the third period.

Khabibulin was spelled off by Devan Dubnyk after stopping 27 of 31 shots he'd faced. Dubnyk gave up the last goal, on a high slap shot by Bryan Bickell, two minutes into the third period.

"It's going to be pivotal, period, to continue to gel together and learn more about each other on and off the ice," Turco said. "It was a big start."

The Oilers welcomed Fernando Pisani back to Edmonton for his first game as a member of the Blackhawks with a video tribute during a break in the first period. Pisani, 33, played 402 regular season games with the Oilers and led all playoff goal-scorers in 2006 with 14 goals, including five game-winners, during Edmonton's march to the Stanley Cup Final against Carolina.
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