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Power play sparks Hawks past Canucks

by Kevin Woodley
VANCOUVER -- The most impressive part of the Chicago Blackhawks' disciplined performance Wednesday night was that it came against a Vancouver Canucks team they so openly dislike. Of course, keeping their cool was easier because of what happened the last time they didn't.

The Blackhawks corrected the mistakes that led to a 6-2 drubbing 10 days earlier, reversing the special teams' trend en route to a 5-1 win at Rogers Arena.

After giving up five power-play goals and getting whacked the first meeting of the season, the Blackhawks didn't give the Canucks' No.1-ranked power play a single opportunity. And after going 0-for-5 themselves with the man advantage in that one-sided loss on Nov.6, Chicago quickly converted its first two chances.

"Probably not," Jonathan Toews, who had a goal and an assist, said when asked if the game was as nasty as the 32 others the teams played in just over three years.
"We're just happy to pay them back a little bit for what they did to us in our own barn."

The key was discipline -- something the Blackhawks keyed on coming in.

"We talked about it in morning skate and before the game," said Marian Hossa, who had three assists. "No.1 thing -- play discipline against and we done it."

Andrew Brunette scored the first power play goal off a nice rush feed from Marcus Kruger 5:12 into the second period to tie the game, and Patrick Kane gave Chicago the lead for good just over five minutes later -- and just 11 seconds after Alex Burrows was whistled for a slash on Duncan Keith's hand that spoiled a 3-on-1.

"It's huge for us, especially against a team like that," said Kane, who added an assist. "We wanted to play disciplined and we did that and capitalized on our power plays too. So overall, (it was) a good night for special teams."


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Chicago broke things open with the three goals in the final 7:20, counterattacking off the rush while the Canucks pressed for the equalizer and opened things up.

Toews scored his 10th of the season with 7:20 left, Patrick Sharp added one on the next shot less than two minutes later and Steve Montador rounded out the scoring with 3:17 left as Chicago opened its annual six-game "Circus Trip" with a fourth-straight win to move past Pittsburgh atop the NHL standings with 27 points.

"That's a good start on the road trip and we need to continue," Hossa said.

Corey Crawford made 28 saves, including several point-blank opportunities to keep it scoreless in the first, for the Blackhawks, who played without top-pair defenseman Brent Seabrook -- he's on the trip but day-to-day with a lower-body injury -- but did get forward Dave Bolland back after three games with a foot injury.

The only downside was forward Michael Frolik crashing awkwardly head first into the boards while bent over at the waist in the third period.

"We'll see," coach Joel Quenneville said of what he labeled an "upper-body" injury.

The Canucks also played down a man after defenseman Keith Ballard tweaked his back early in a back-and-forth first period that featured a surprising number of mistakes and good chances, solid saves and near misses. Vancouver actually opened the scoring early in the second when Jannik Hansen tapped in Henrik Sedin's perfect 2-on-1 feed on the backdoor behind Crawford, and Vancouver registered the period's first five shots. That didn't include Hansen missing a similar chance his next shift that would have made it 2-0, and the momentum ended when Ryan Kesler was called for tripping shortly after.

"I thought we played a good first 45-50 minutes for sure," Sedin said. "This is one of the best teams in the League and we played well. We scored the first goal and should have scored the next one on the next shift but the puck took a bad bounce and they come back and score two on the power play. That's where the game turns."

Halfway through the first power play, Montador made a nice play on the wall to send Kruger and Brunette in a 2-on-1 from the faceoff dot. Brunette converted the cross-ice pass under the outstretched blocker of Cory Schneider, giving the veteran forward 58 points in 68 career games against the Canucks.

It was also the fifth powerp-play goal in the last four games for Chicago's second unit, with Montador and Brunette recording two apiece to help the Blackhawks' power play improve slightly to 23rd at just 13.2 per cent coming into the game.

"No idea," Brunette said of how they're outscoring a star laden top unit. "That's the funny thing about power plays, sometimes it goes and sometimes nothing goes."

That's been the case for more than a year against Vancouver, as the Blackhawks were 1-for-20 against them last regular season, and did nothing the first meeting.

But Kane put Chicago ahead for good after walking into the slot, where his shot bounced off two Canucks' sticks -- the second belonging to defenseman Sami Salo as he tried to tie up Toews at the side of the net -- and in past a helpless Schneider.

The Blackhawks almost made it 3-for-3 when Toews rang a shot off the post early in the third. But they still needed Crawford to make a shorthanded breakaway save on the same power play, forcing Hansen wide before getting a piece of his backhand.

That was the only special team scoring chance the Canucks had.

"We saw what can happen when you put them on the power play," Quenneville said. "Their power play is as hot as anybody's has been for stretches over the years, and our focus was let's concentrate on being disciplined and staying out of the box."

Even if meant one of the least eventful meetings between the teams in years.

"It wasn't as nasty as in the past," said Schneider, who made 22 saves with Roberto Luongo out day-to-day with an upper-body injury. "They didn't want to take penalties after the last game, and when one side tones it down the other follows suit."
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