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Hawks roll Oilers, shift focus to Sharks

1/29/2010
Shawn Horcoff of the Edmonton Oilers ties up the Hawks' Jonathan Toews after a face-off at Rexall Place on on Wednesday night. The Hawks beat the Oilers 4-2. Andy Devlin/NHLI/Getty Images

EDMONTON, Alberta -- It turns out the Chicago Blackhawks weren’t looking past the Edmonton Oilers.

Maybe it was Edmonton’s players who had something else on their mind because they waited nearly two periods to put up a fight in the visiting Hawks’ 4-2 victory. The final score doesn’t put into words how bad the Oilers were early in this game.

“We did some good things in the first two periods but that’s still far from the way we need to play,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said about building 4-0 lead and then letting Edmonton close the gap.

Toews scored 44 seconds into the contest, and for the most part the Hawks never looked back. It wasn’t an easy night in the energy department.

“There wasn’t much of an atmosphere in the building tonight,” Toews said. “I wouldn’t say that’s an excuse, but some flat games like that you have to find a way to motivate yourself.”

He’s not wrong about the crowd. It was so quiet, yelling on the benches could be heard all the way up in the press box.

A 1-0 first intermission lead ballooned to 4-0 in a dominant second period in which the Hawks outshot the Oilers 17-7 and outscored them 3-1. By then nine different Hawks had points, including Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith with two assists each. The Hawks spent the majority of the time in the offensive zone playing their quintessential game of keep away.

A late goal in the period by Fernando Pisani gave the Oilers some life, though. Things tightened up early in the third period after Niklas Hjamarlsson turned a puck over and Ryan Potulny hammered it home to make it 4-2, but the Hawks held serve from there.

“We tried to remind ourselves when they scored that goal late in the second period that it’s never over until it’s over,” Toews said. “We saw what happened to us in Minnesota ... We didn’t have much energy in the third, but we were good at keeping chances away from our net.”

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville had no problem with the response the Hawks had coming off Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. He likened it to how his team played in Calgary after losing to Ottawa.

“It was a great start,” Quenneville said. “Good response from our game in Vancouver. That’s the way we have to play and we like the pace we had all night.

“They came at us in the third and had some opportunities. I still like our puck possession game, we did some good things tonight. [Patrick Kane] had the puck a lot and [Marian Hossa] had another strong game.”

The Hawks’ third line finally got on the score sheet. They were pointless in the five previous games on the trip but came through when Kris Versteeg assisted on a Dustin Byfuglien tip-in. Quenneville agreed maybe it will let them relax before Thursday’s big matchup against the San Jose Sharks.

“It was nice that line did get some production,” Quenneville said. “On this trip their production or that line’s consistency hasn’t been at the same pace so hopefully this will get them back going.”

You can call it a warm up or a confidence builder heading into San Jose; just don’t call the Oilers game very competitive, despite the final score. That comes Thursday, and the Hawks think they will be ready.

“Looking back at our road trip so far we’ve had some really good games and some games where we’ve been really bad,” Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. “I think tonight was a good game for the most part. Our goal now is to have another really good game in San Jose.”

“It’s a big game,” Quenneville continued. “It sets up first place [in the Western Conference]. It could be a very valuable game at the end of the season.”

At 4-2, the Hawks have assured themselves of a .500 road trip, but winning in San Jose would be the exclamation point. Winning in Edmonton was a nice appetizer.

NOTES:

  • The Hawks had 37 shots on net and missed the net another 19 times. That’s 56 headed toward Oilers goalie Jeff Deslauriers, who fought the puck all night.

  • Hossa had a team-high six shots on net. No other Hawk had more than four. Hossa scored his 14th goal of the season.

  • Edmonton didn’t have a shot on net for the first seven minutes of the game and only six in the first period. The Oilers lost for the 11th consecutive time and 18th in 19 games.