Hawks bounce visiting Devils, improve to 10-1-2 against the East
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter December 23, 2013 10:26PM
Updated: January 25, 2014 6:33AM
With three days off in front of them, and two big games against division opponents looming immediately after the break, the Blackhawks made it clear they wanted to go into Christmas feeling good about themselves.
“We want to leave it all out there,” Patrick Sharp said.
“We want to leave it all out there,” Bryan Bickell said.
“We want to leave everything out there,” Andrew Shaw said, straying boldly from the talking points.
Well, after a thoroughly dominant 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Monday night, the Hawks were able to leave the United Center on yet another high note in a season full of them.
“Everybody’s happy,” Marian Hossa said. “The coaches will have a beautiful Christmas. Same with the players.”
The Hawks dominated the puck all night at the United Center, outshooting the Devils 37-12 and winning a whopping 38 of 56 faceoffs in another lopsided affair against the Eastern Conference (they’re 10-1-2 against the East).
Sharp scored twice off tremendous feeds by Hossa, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook each had two assists, Jonathan Toews was a plus-3 while going 17-for-22 at the dot, and Patrick Kane continued his red-hot play.
“That was one of our better games all year, as far as purpose, puck possession, direct plays, gap, neutralizing their rush game and simplifying that neutral zone,” coach Joel Quenneville said.
After a quiet start, Sharp took a no-look drop pass from Hossa and wristed a shot that ticked off Devils defenseman Mark Fayne and past Cory Schneider for a 1-0 lead at 12:59 of the first. New Jersey finished with just two shots in the period, but tied it at 1 early in the second, when Stephen Gionta deflected a Jon Merrill shot past Antti Raanta (10 saves).
But a little more than two minutes later, Kane muscled his way to a Nick Leddy rebound and one-handed the puck past Schneider for a 2-1 lead. Kane has a point in 12 games in a row, and 24 of 25.
Bickell made it 3-1 Hawks with a wrist shot from the right circle through a screen by Andrew Shaw.
The Devils briefly made a game of it when Michael Ryder scored 59 seconds into the third, but Hossa sprung Sharp on a breakaway after Seabrook blocked a shot, and Sharp finished it for his 18th goal. Leddy added a power-play goal at 12:59.
It was a quintessential victory by the Hawks — built on hoarding the puck, limiting shots and generating offense from defense. About the only out-of-character moment came when Hossa — feeling he was tripped on a rush to the net — stood casually along the boards, chatting up a referee, while play continued around him, allowing the Devils’ penalty-killers to clear the puck.
“Yeah, I had a good talk with the referee for a while, while the game was going on,” Hossa said with a sheepish smile.
Quenneville was able to laugh it off, given it was Hossa and not some rookie.
“I wouldn’t expect a young guy to even think of doing that,” Quenneville said with a smile.
It’s all smiles when you’re winning, and the Hawks head into the unofficial halfway point of the season in first place in the Central Division, and one point behind the Anaheim Ducks (who are on a nine-game winning streak) in the Western Conference. They’ll enjoy the break, then brace for the Avalanche, Blues and Kings — three more of the top teams in the West — in a four-day span.