Friday, November 29, 2013
Hawks' perseverance pays dividends on trip
By Todd Wills
DALLAS -- There’s a reason the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks persevered for their NHL-best 19th victory of the season Friday night with a 2-1 win in a shootout over the Dallas Stars.
The Blackhawks can handle being at the back end of a seven-game road trip, even against one of the fastest opponents in the league. They can change the momentum of a game with their determination and talent, and they can survive 11 rounds of a shootout, too.
Ben Smith scored in the 11th round of the shootout to push the Blackhawks to victory.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had to know his group would rally for a win behind the first shootout goal of Ben Smith's career. Or at least hope so.
"I had a lot of confidence in Ben," Quenneville said with a smile.
Quenneville has a lot of confidence in his team. The Blackhawks are at a league-best 42 points after grabbing their fifth win in six games on a 12-day trip that will conclude Saturday in Phoenix.
Chicago is a blistering 10-3-1 on the road. The Blackhawks have built that record by overcoming three 1-0 third-period deficits on this trip, the latest Friday night.
Patrick Sharp scored the equalizer at 7:21 of the third period to give the Blackhawks a lift after the well-rested Stars, in the second game of a three-game homestand, outplayed Chicago for the first two periods. The Stars were all over the place, and goalie Corey Crawford had to be perfect after gift-wrapping a goal to Rich Peverley late in the first period.
"The pace was incredible," Quenneville said. "That first period was a tremendous pace. [The Stars] work hard, and they have a lot of speed on you. They keep pressure on you. I thought we hung in there well. Crawford was rock-solid and great in the shootout as well. It was one of those games. It was tight and we had to do things quickly, and it’s pretty remarkable that we’ve had three games in the last four where it was 1-0 going into the third and we found a way to win. We showed great character tonight."
Crawford kept the Blackhawks in the game by stopping Alex Chiasson on a penalty shot just more than two minutes into the second period with Chicago already down 1-0. Chiasson hit the left post, making Crawford a perfect 8-for-8 on penalty shots for his career.
"We work on it sometimes in practice," Crawford said. "It’s a key situation in the game. It’s important if we go down by two goals. I was just trying to come up with a save and keep our team in it."
Crawford again had to be perfect in the shootout after Peverley kept the Stars alive with a wrist shot that got past the Blackhawks goalie in the third round.
Crawford and Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen stopped every shot for the next seven rounds, and when Dallas rookie Valeri Nichushkin missed to start the 11th round, that gave Smith a chance to be the hero and get the Blackhawks to Phoenix with a shootout win.
Smith had watched how his teammates tried to beat Lehtonen low during the shootout, playing to the Dallas goalie’s strength. So Smith decided to go up high, and he was able to get a wrist shot up over Lehtonen’s glove and shoulder for the game winner.
"I was watching the guys," Smith said. “I was hoping I didn’t have to go, but I wanted to go. I was hoping it didn’t get to that point. To get the opportunity and Crawford came up with the big save, many big saves. To be able to bury that was nice."