Rusty? Hawks sharp after 5-day break

Tribune staff reporter

After having five days off due to a quirk in the schedule, the Blackhawks were concerned they would lose the momentum they'd gained with three straight victories.

The Hawks quickly allayed that fear by scoring the first three goals Sunday night, including two in the opening period, in a 6-1 rout of the Calgary Flames at the United Center.

Patrick Kane and Martin Havlat each had a goal and two assists, Jonathan Toews snapped his goal-scoring drought with his first of the season and three other Hawks scored. They won for the fourth straight time to improve to 6-0-2 at home and 7-3-3 overall. The victory came in front of a crowd of 21,169, the Hawks' eighth straight sellout to start the season.

"That's a credit to the character in this locker room," Toews said of maintaining the momentum. "A lot of people think that you get a lot of rest and come off a long break, you should be fine, [but] it's tough.

"We were ready to play. We knew they were going to come at us and that they are a very strong team. We were ready for whatever they were going to throw at us."

Calgary, playing the second of back-to-back games and its third game in four nights, didn't throw much at Hawks goaltender Cristobal Huet, who made 22 saves.

Determined to start strong, the Hawks' penalty killers set the tone by killing off three early penalties — including a four-minute double minor to Havlat — en route to holding the Flames scoreless in eight attempts.

"It was a really solid game," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Our penalty killers did a great job in the first to get us into the game. Coming out of there with the lead was important.

"We did a lot of good things. All areas of our game, I thought, were strong. It was a dangerous game coming in."

Havlat and Aaron Johnson scored first-period goals and Kane scored midway through the second to give the Hawks a 3-0 lead. After Dustin Boyd brought the Flames within 3-1, it was all Hawks: They scored three times in the third period.

"Special teams were the difference, plain and simple," Flames coach Mike Keenan said. "Up until now our team has been good on the power play and the penalty kill, but Chicago was much more aggressive, even on their penalty kill."

Toews notched his first goal of the season from between the circles off a pass from Kane in the opening minute of the final period. Kane found Kris Versteeg in the same spot 28 seconds later, and he fired it past goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff to make it 5-1. Troy Brouwer finished the scoring with a power-play goal late in the third.

"You didn't really know what to expect coming in," Kane said. "It was almost like it was the first game of the season again, so it's nice to get that one out of the way."

The game was the second of five straight at home for the Hawks, and it was their second straight with six goals.

"Everyone's feeling good when you're scoring six goals a game and getting on the scoresheet," Kane said. "It's a good time for us. We need to take some confidence from it and keep going."

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