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Minimalist offense, maximum result
There have been times this season when the Blackhawks lost games they thought they should have won.
Consider Friday night's game as balancing the score a bit. The Hawks snapped a two-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues in a game in which the final score was nowhere near a reflection of which team had the better of the play.
At the 12-minute mark of the second period, the Hawks had been outshot 20-5 yet had a 2-1 lead.
After making the most of the minimum, getting three goals on nine shots through two periods, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin held down the fort and kept the Blues at bay.
For a team desperate for points, the Hawks couldn't care less how they get themjust as long as they come in bunches.
Friday began a stretch in which the Hawks will play 16 of 21 games at the United Center. It's a critical period if they are to climb out of 13th place in the West and make a legitimate playoff run.
They couldn't have asked for a better opponent to start with than the NHL-cellar-dwelling Blues, a team that has suffered a stunning fall from grace in the last couple of years and is currently for sale.
For the fourth straight game, the Hawks took control early, getting two goals in the first 20 minutes on only four shots on goal. Unlike recent games in Atlanta, Carolina and Nashville, however, the Hawks wouldn't relinquish this lead.
Andy Hilbert opened the scoring 8 minutes 33 seconds into the game when he deflected a shot from Rene Bourque past St. Louis goaltender Curtis Sanford. Martin Lapointe scored his first even-strength goal of the season 10 minutes later to make it 2-0.
The Hawks had the lead despite being outshot 8-4 and allowing five St. Louis power plays.
The Hawks didn't record their first shot on goal of the second period until Anton Babchuk floated a wrist shot from just inside the blue line 12 minutes into the frame.
By then Jason Bacashihua was in goal for the Bluesmaking his NHL debut after Sanford suffered a hip flexor injury 4:38 into the period.
Bacashihua recorded his first NHL point before he made his first save, recording an assist on Dean McAmmond's goal at 10:30 to make it 2-1.
The Blues had a golden opportunity to get on the board two minutes earlier when they were awarded a penalty shot, but Khabibulin stopped Doug Weight's attempt.
Mark Bell restored the Hawks' two-goal lead when he fired a shot from inside the blue line that found the top shelf over Bacashihua at 16:08. The goal, Bell's second in as many nights, came on the power play, snapping the Hawks' 0-for-18 streak dating to Dec. 7.
The Hawks had a much better third period and closed out the game with an empty-net goal from Pavel Vorobiev, his fourth-straight game with a point, and another from Jim Dowd with two seconds left.