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Hawks give fans a present
Blackhawks coach Brian Sutter said Tuesday morning that he will be able to enjoy Wednesday and Thursdaywhen the NHL shuts down for Christmas if his team works hard and gets rewarded for it.
It should be a happy holiday then for the Hawks, who received the best gift they could imagine Tuesday night with a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
The triumph was only the second in the last 21 games for the Hawks and both came against the best teams in the Central DivisionDetroit and St. Louis.
"We needed that," Scott Nichol said. "It was a good, all-around win. There wasn't one guy taking a night off."
Michael Leighton picked up his second career shutout but the first that resulted in a victory. In his NHL debut last January, Leighton was involved in a 0-0 tie with the Phoenix Coyotes.
"When you score three goals, it takes a load off the shoulders," Leighton said. "The defense was unbelievable, made a lot of great plays, blocking shots and not letting them get great scoring opportunities."
Steve Sullivan put the Hawks on the board only 1 minute 41 seconds into the game when he took a pass from Ville Nieminen and broke in clean on standout defenseman Chris Pronger.
Sullivan turned Pronger around twice before slipping a shot between the pads of goaltender Brent Johnson for his sixth goal of the season.
Tuesday morning, Nichol said the Hawks "need someone to step up." The way the Hawks are currently made up, Sullivan seems like the logical player to do that, yet the goal was only his second in his last 20 games.
"Right now our team needs wins," Sullivan said. "Who cares who scores or who doesn't as long as we get the result at the end of the night."
Nichol did his part, scoring his fourth goal of the year 1:27 into the third period, again going through Johnson's pads on a wrap-around.
"That was a big relief [getting the second goal]," Sutter said.
Two minutes later, Tyler Arnason made it 3-0 on a breakaway, giving the Hawks a three-goal cushion for only the second time this season, the first coming Nov. 2 when they led Anaheim 3-0 before winning 3-1.
Until Nichol and Arnason livened things up early in the third, Tuesday night was a sleepy affair for the first two periods. The final 10 minutes became old-time hockey, much to the delight of the crowd of 12,732, which has had precious little to get excited about this season.
Teams trailing by three goals used to take out their frustrations with the gloves off. That's a rarity in today's NHL, but the Blues turned the clock back when Mike Danton took on Travis Moen at 10:46 of the third. Then Steve McLaren went with Johnathan Aitken just 10 seconds later. Earlier, McLaren and Ryan VandenBussche tussled.
"There are two things fans like, offense and physical play," Sutter said.
Goals, fights, a victory and a loud United Center. Perhaps the Ghost of Blackhawk Past paid a Christmas visit to West Madison Street.