Sizzling Blackhawks top Blues
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[February 27, 2017]
CHICAGO -- Even after the
Blackhawks won for the ninth time in their past 10 games on Sunday
night, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville acknowledged there is still
room for improvement.
At times, Quenneville said his team can afford to be sharper with
the puck. There have been moments, he admitted, when the Blackhawks
lost steam when they could ill afford to. But of late, Chicago is
simply finding ways to win.
Sunday was no different.
Artem Anisimov snapped a third-period tie with a goal, and Scott
Darling made 30 saves as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2
at the United Center.
Anisimov converted a pinpoint cross-ice pass from Artemi Panarin
with 5:20 remaining in the third period. Darling then helped hold
off a late St. Louis rally to preserve the win for the Blackhawks
Tanner Kero tallied an empty-net goal with three seconds left to
send the Blues (31-25-5) to their third straight loss.
Darling started in place of Corey Crawford, who missed the game due
to illness. Darling made several key saves to keep the Blackhawks on
top in the closing minutes.
"At the end of the day, it was just (about) trying to get some body
parts over there," said Darling, who stands 6-foot-6. "Sometimes,
you get a piece of them."
The Blackhawks rebounded in the third period after allowing an early
two-goal lead to disappear. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane gave
Chicago the advantage as both stars continued to be productive after
Toews registered a hat trick Tuesday at Minnesota and Kane matched
that feat Thursday against Arizona.
However, the Blues came back and drew even in the second period on
an Alex Pietrangelo power-play goal. The Blackhawks had a flurry of
scoring chances while leading 2-1 but couldn't convert.
Jake Allen (38 saves) kept St. Louis even before he gave up the
game-winner when Anisimov held the puck on his stick just long
enough to get the goalie to commit.
"If he one-times that, I had it right there," Allen said. "That's a
really great play from him."
After Toews and Kane scored, the Blues trimmed the deficit to a goal
at 16:54 of the first period. Magnus Paajarvi scored an unassisted
goal after he scooped up a loose puck on a Trevor van Riemsdyk
turnover and fired a shot past Darling.
The goal seemed to spark the Blues, who played for the first time
after to their bye week. Despite allowing the Blackhawks to jump on
them early, the Blues overcame the sluggish start and eventually
drew even on Pietrangelo's equalizer.
"I know it sounds like an excuse -- but when you take that much time
off when you've played every other day for the whole year, it's
tough to get your legs going," Pietrangelo said.
[to top of second column]
Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) scores past St. Louis Blues
goalie Jake Allen (34) during the first period at the United Center.
Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Once the Blues tied the game, Darling helped to
weather the storm. Blues center Paul Stastny got several point blank
chances, only to be denied each time by Darling, who turned away
everything the Blues threw at him and kept the game even until
Chicago finished off the win with the two late goals.
"We had some looks at the doorstep and (Darling) made some great
saves," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "But Jake (Allen) made some great
saves, too. It is what it is."
While Darling preserved the victory, the Blackhawks continued to win
behind their star power. And at a time when Chicago appears to have
all four lines running on all cylinders, the Blackhawks continue to
make a push toward the top of the Western Conference.
Now, it is just a matter of putting everything together.
"It's huge," Darling said of the Blackhawks' surge. "It's really
encouraging watching the team the last few weeks getting cohesion
going at this point in the season. It's exciting."
NOTES: Blues F Ivan Barbashev missed the Sunday game with an
upper-body injury he sustained this week while playing for the
Blues' AHL Chicago affiliate. The injury is not considered to be
serious. ... St. Louis scratched RW Nail Yakupov and D Robert
Bortuzzo. ... With G Corey Crawford sick, the Blackhawks recalled
Lars Johansson from AHL Rockford to back up Scott Darling on Sunday.
... Blackhawks D Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body injury) did not play
after missing practice on Saturday, and he remains day-to-day.
Hjalmarsson left Chicago's game against Arizona on Thursday due to
the injury. ... Chicago D Duncan Keith registered his 500th career
point with an assist on RW Patrick Kane's first-period goal. ...
Blackhawks RW Jordin Tootoo also missed Sunday's game due to
illness, and C Dennis Rasmussen was a healthy scratch.
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