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For Hawks, goals come in avalanche
The Blackhawks believed all along it was a matter of when — not if — their offense would kick into gear this season.
Last in the NHL entering Friday night's game against the Colorado Avalanche, the offense had sputtered out of the gate, averaging 1.67 goals over the first six games.
"I don't know when it's going to be, but I know for a fact we're getting chances, plenty of them," Hawks coach Denis Savard said before the game.
It turned out "when" was in the first period of the Blackhawks' 5-3 victory over the Avalanche at the United Center.
After jumping to a 3-0 first-period lead, the Hawks fought off a Colorado rally and won it when Tuomo Ruutu redirected Magnus Johansson's slap shot with 1 minute 25 seconds remaining in the third period. Patrick Kane and Johansson assisted on the even-strength goal. Robert Lang then added an empty-netter with 50 seconds left for the final margin.
Hawks rookie center Jonathan Toews took matters into his own hands with 13 minutes to go in the first period when he skated through three Colorado defenders and tucked the puck past Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore to take a 1-0 lead. Fellow rookie Kane and James Wisniewski assisted on Toews' second goal of the season.
Savard called the goal "highlight-tape, goal of the week, probably goal of the year, probably one of the best goals for a long time."
Said Toews: "I gave a couple of head fakes, and I guess with the speed it was enough to get around the first defenseman. I decided to take it to the net and Theodore was out, so I stuffed it around him."
Patrick Sharp made it 2-0 a minute and a half later when he knocked in a rebound on a backhander off Jason Williams' shot to score his second of the season.
Six minutes later, Sharp and Kane broke in two-on-one on Theodore. Sharp fed the top pick of the 2007 NHL draft for a wrist shot he fired into the net for his first career goal. Duncan Keith added an assist.
After the goal, Sharp skated to the corner to retrieve the puck and handed it to Kane for a souvenir as they made their way to the bench. The goal and two assists made Kane the team's leading scorer with seven points.
"When I saw the two-on-one, I thought it was my chance," Kane said. "[Sharp] gave me a great pass, and I just closed my eyes and shot it into the top corner. It was just a matter of time. It was nice to get that one and kind of get rolling here. I'm feeling pretty good.
"Every game I seem to get a little more comfortable, and now that I have that one off my back, I can just go out there and play my own game."
The Avalanche came out fired up in the second period, forcing the play into the Hawks' zone and testing Nikolai Khabibulin with four early shots. Savard called a rare second-period timeout to slow the momentum.
The move worked to slow the pace, but Colorado later cut the lead to 3-1 when Andrew Brunette sent a pass from behind the net to Wojtek Wolski, who shot it past Khabibulin for his second goal of the season with 4:39 remaining in the period.
Colorado cut the lead to 3-2 on a goal by Marek Svatos, then tied it early in the third when Ryan Smith scored.