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Resilient Blackhawks respond with 3-1 win over Kings

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Updated: December 15, 2013 10:31PM



As the minutes melted away in the third period, Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta allowed his mind to wander, just a little bit. After all, the rookie was tantalizingly close to the first shutout of his NHL career — less than 24 hours after getting yanked in Toronto after two miserable periods.

“I think I wasn’t thinking about the game too much, I was thinking a little bit [about the] shutout in the last five minutes,” Raanta admitted. “But that was quickly over.”

Yes, Raanta lost his shutout bid with 3:54 left in the game. But another thing was quickly over on Sunday — the bad vibe from the Hawks’ dreadful performance in Toronto a night earlier. They snapped the Los Angeles Kings’ six-game win streak with an impressive 3-1 victory in a rematch — and potential preview — of the Western Conference final.

It was a big bounce-back not just for Raanta, but the entire Hawks roster, who were pretty much all to blame for Saturday’s 7-3 disaster in Toronto.

“We didn’t help our goaltenders at all [against the Maple Leafs],” said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, who set up two goals in a strong all-around effort. “Pucks were going through our feet, through our sticks, we weren’t checking, we were losing all the battles. Tonight we worked a little harder in front of [Raanta], and I think he showed the same resolve.”

Indeed, of all the positive signs the Blackhawks have shown this season — a high-powered offense, a top-five power play, and next-level performances from Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, to name a few — perhaps their most encouraging attribute has been their ability to move on, and to bounce back.

This was just the latest example. After a disastrous 7-2 loss in Nashville on Nov. 16, the Hawks throttled San Jose 5-1 the next night. After a 5-1 loss in Colorado on Nov. 19, the Hawks kickstarted a six-game road winning streak with a 6-3 victory in Winnipeg. And now, after a 7-3 loss at Toronto, they responded with an impressive win over maybe the hottest team in the league.

The Kings came in having won six straight, and having not allowed a first-period goal in a record-tying 18 straight games. The Hawks made quick work of that staggering streak, scoring three times in the first period.

Marian Hossa snapped the streak with a shorthanded goal at 5:45 of the first after Toews won a puck battle behind the Kings net. Barely four minutes later, Kris Versteeg kept the puck on a two-on-one and beat Scrivens. Then, with 28.2 seconds left, Toews fed Patrick Sharp for a power-play goal and a 3-0 lead. It was the ninth straight game in which the Hawks scored at least once on the power play.

“Good response from [Saturday] night’s game,” said Quenneville, who moved into a tie with Pat Quinn for fourth on the all-time wins list at 684. “Lot of energy in our lineup tonight. And Jonny led the charge.”

Raanta, who allowed five goals in two periods in Toronto, made 21 saves in all, with his finest coming when the Kings were shorthanded late in the second, as he made a sprawling toe save on a golden chance for Anze Kopitar. But Alec Martinez scored with 3:54 left to spoil the shutout bid.

Still, the win was as much a relief as it was a triumph for Raanta, who admitted to feeling uneasy after such a poor performance in Toronto, knowing that he’s still trying to establish himself as an NHL-caliber goalie.

“Sometimes you just have those nights,” Raanta said. “I don’t know if any goalie’s a robot. Everybody makes mistakes.”

The key for the Hawks is making them, then learning from them, and fixing them.

“It’s nice to see we can rebound from that,” Toews said. “Doesn’t take us long to get back to our good habits.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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