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Bryan Bickell, offense break out as Blackhawks beat Maple Leafs

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Updated: October 19, 2013 11:06PM



Earlier in the week, knee-deep in a season-long scoring slump, Bryan Bickell shared a thought from one of hockey’s deeper thinkers, Teemu Selanne, one that was passed along to him by Sheldon Brookbank. Scoring goals is like trying to get ketchup out of the bottle, Selanne theorized — it can take a while, but once it starts flowing, it’ll pour and pour and pour.

Based on Bickell’s ferocious, two-fisted celebration of his first goal since June, the taste was awfully sweet.

“It’s nice to get that first one,” Bickell said after a 3-1 victory against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. “But the full team game was huge.”

Indeed, it was the most impressive 60-minute performance of the season for the Hawks, who enjoyed their first game that wasn’t a one-goal contest in the final minute. No, the Hawks didn’t score in the third period for the seventh straight game. No, they didn’t score more than three goals for the seventh straight game, either.

But there was definite progress — and more importantly, two points. And they feel the ketchup is almost out of the bottle.

With the lines largely reset to what worked so well during the regular season last year — with Brandon Saad on the top line, Patrick Kane on the second, and Bickell on the third — the Hawks outshot the Maple Leafs 40-20. They scored three goals in the second period and closed it out in the third despite having to kill two penalties and having a goal disallowed. Two nights after saying his team’s late-game performance was awful in a shootout loss to St. Louis, coach Joel Quenneville was a much happier.

“We still had some good chances to score,” he said. “It wasn’t like we just sat back and waited for them to come. We played the way we did in the first two periods and kept the heat on relatively well.”

After both teams trudged through a quiet first period, things picked up in the second. Bickell’s goal was uncharacteristically fancy. Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier failed to catch Bickell’s wrist shot, and Bickell pounced on the rebound and danced his way around the goal mouth before neatly tucking the puck behind Bernier.

“I didn’t really know I had that in me,” Bickell said. “I think Q was losing it on the bench.”

Toronto’s Nazem Kadri responded 91 seconds later with a power-play goal, the only tally allowed by Corey Crawford (19 saves). But Michael Kostka scored the first goal of his career for what proved to be the game-winner, and did it against his former team — upstaging Dave Bolland’s quiet return (two shots, one hit, one penalty) to the United Center. Kostka is the third Hawks player to score his first goal this season, along with Joakim Nordstrom and Brandon Pirri. Brandon Bollig scored his first regular-season goal in the season opener, but had a playoff goal to his credit.

Pirri then gave the Hawks the one thing they’ve been lacking lately — an insurance goal. Earning some time on the power play after a strong game on Thursday night, Pirri shook off a cross-check and one-timed a tap-in of a perfect Brandon Saad pass for a 3-1 lead.

“That was a great shot, a tough play to make — the one-timer in a tough area,” Quenneville said.

From there, the Hawks were unable to get that elusive fourth goal. But there was little drama to this one — a welcome change, even as they wait for the goals to start flowing freely.

“I thought we had what we were looking for, and that’s the four-line rotation,” Quenneville said. “We sustained that momentum of how we like to play. I thought we got that tonight from start to finish.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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