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Four-goal first period helps Hawks end nine-game losing streak

Marian Hosswhoops it up after scoring Hawks’ fourth goal first period Thursday.  |  Bruce Bennett~Getty Images

Marian Hossa whoops it up after scoring the Hawks’ fourth goal of the first period Thursday. | Bruce Bennett~Getty Images

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Updated: March 18, 2012 8:21AM

NEW YORK — It was Jonathan Toews against
everything that had combined to create the Blackhawks’ discouraging nine-game losing streak.

So there was a lot running through Toews’ mind before his penalty shot 65 seconds into the Hawks’ game Thursday against the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

‘‘I try not to think about it at the moment,’’ Toews said. ‘‘But it’s a huge situation for us. .  .  . If I don’t score on that one, the feeling on the bench — or maybe myself — would be, ‘What do we have to do to score to get things going?’  ’’

When Toews beat goalie Martin Biron between the pads, it was an omen of more good things to come for a team that needed plenty of them. It jump-started a first-period flurry of offensive highlights that lifted the Hawks to a 4-2 victory and ended a losing streak that had caused numerous concerns about them as a team.

‘‘We haven’t had too many regular-season wins that felt as good as that,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said of the Hawks’ first victory since Jan. 20.

But there was more to the victory than Toews’ goal — or the ones Nick Leddy, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa added in the first period.
Leddy scored 62 seconds
after Toews, and Sharp and Hossa raced behind the Rangers’ touted defense and scored on breakaways.

‘‘At 4-0, we continued to press forward,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘If there were any negatives, it was taking penalties and allowing their skill guys some easy shifts to get them back into the game. Fortunately, our penalty kill was good.’’

Make that great.

The Hawks’ penalty kill, which entered the game ranked 27th in the league, was pressed into serious
action a little more than a minute after the team had taken a 3-0 lead. Andrew Shaw was penalized for holding and John Scott for boarding at the same time.

But the penalty kill was the best it has been in a while, killing off all seven of the Rangers’ power plays.

‘‘It was probably the biggest area that got us the win,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘We did a good job of being in the right areas and the right lanes,
denying some shots and
[being] tight around our net.’’

There was more, too. Hossa, Toews, Sharp and Patrick Kane were all a
plus-2, Brent Seabrook added two assists and Corey Crawford (22 saves) had his best outing since the opener of the road trip against the Vancouver Canucks.

Improving defensively had been the Hawks’ focus
throughout their losing streak. After defeating the Rangers, they said it was their ability to commit to
their defensive responsibilities that led to their offensive chances.

‘‘What we went through is always something to visit with, knowing that we never want to be back here again,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘There’s some steps in our team game that had gotten everybody’s attention that have to be even tighter as we go along. There is progress in that area, but we’re just thinking about the next game and building off this one.’’

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