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Blackhawks off to a blistering start with 10-1 rout of defending champs Penguins

The onslaught came without warning and it didn't give you much time to catch your breath or rest your voice from singing the last few bars of "Chelsea Dagger."

It started with Patrick Kane dishing one of the prettiest passes you will see from him and ended with Brandon Saad, one of two Blackhawks prodigal sons, scoring his second goal on his way to a hat trick.

After an offseason of changes and questions surrounding a limp first-round playoff sweep, the Hawks made an emphatic statement Thursday night at the United Center with a spectacular four goals in 2 minutes, 55 seconds in the first period of their 10-1 opening victory against the two-time defending champion Penguins.

Coach Joel Quenneville said he couldn't remember the last time he was a part of a game where a team scored 10 goals, which set the franchise record for most goals in a season opener. It was the first time the Hawks had scored 10 in a game since Oct. 12, 1988.

"We played almost — I don't want to say a perfect game — but we played really good hockey," winger Ryan Hartman said.

The Hawks ended with five goals in the first period, which served as a full-throated warning to the rest of the league that the Hawks aren't messing around to start the season as they try to put the embarrassing playoffs loss to the Predators officially in their rear view.

"We ended on a very sour note," Quenneville said. "Everybody was bitter to a different level. I don't know how you motivate yourself. There's a lot of motivation — first game, building is excited, Stanley Cup champs, because we lost four straight (in the playoffs), is that at the forefront of our minds? I just think everybody wants to play well, play hard."

Inexperience on the blue line? The loss of Marian Hossa, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin?

It didn't matter Thursday the moment Kane shuffled a head-turning behind-the-back pass to Hartman for the Hawks' first goal 6:21 into the game. It was the first of four points for Kane and five for Hartman.

"I don't think there's any question in here. We knew we were a good team," Hartman said. "We won 50 games last year. We added a lot of good pieces. It showed."

Saad showed he is an improved version of the player the Hawks traded to the Blue Jackets two seasons ago. His first goal came when he initiated a rush chance with Richard Panik off a Penguins turnover and cleaned up Panik's shot for a goal at 7:06. Then Kane had more magic and sent a spin-o-rama pass to surging second-year center Nick Schmaltz at 7:34 before Saad notched his second goal at 9:16 from the slot off another rebound that sent the helpless Nieimi to showers.

But that didn't stop the goals from coming.

Patrick Sharp, himself making his return to the Hawks after two years in exile, Kane, Panik and Brent Seabrook all got in the goal column while Saad capped off his hat trick with a goal on a breakaway with Jonathan Toews 5:21 into the third period.

"The excitement level was through the roof coming in…" Saad said. "The puck found me and it just so happened I put in three."

The only concerning moment of the night was when the Hawks lost Schmaltz to an apparent left knee injury in the third period and Tanner Kero to an injury in the second. Schmaltz, who finished with two goals and an assist, needed help getting to the locker room but Quenneville said he and Kero are fine and are likely to play Saturday.

With the Hawks ahead 7-1 in the second period, the scoreboard showed Chairman Rocky Wirtz in honor of his 65th birthday. It was hard to blame Wirtz for having a wide smile across his face. Then the Hawks scored again — Schmaltz from Kane — because ... why not?

chine@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @ChristopherHine

Chris Hine's three stars

1. Brandon Saad, Blackhawks: Returned home with an impressive hat trick

2. Patrick Kane, Blackhawks: Made several pretty plays in getting goal, three assists

3. Nick Schmaltz, Blackhawks: Had two goals and one assist, but left because of injury

Up next

Vs. Blue Jackets, 7:30 p.m. Saturday; WGN-9.

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