But deep down it had to botheran ex-defenseman such as Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney just a bit that the first three victories of the season were a product of outscoring opponents rather than a lockdown defense.
"To win a 2-1 game like that against a real good team, the guys deserve a lot of credit," Yawney said. "They battled hard."
Yawney certainly wouldn't be the only one savoring a victory that didn't involve lighting up the scoreboard and holding on for dear life.
So far this season the defense has been along for the ride on a bus Martin Havlat has driven. But Wednesday night, whether it was killing off all six Montreal power plays, including one in the final two minutes of the game, or blocking a season-high 19 shots, the defense stepped up and gave a good accounting of itself.
"A defenseman's dream," Adrian Aucoin said. "It was a grinding game. We just kept working and working."
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, erasing a little more of last season with every outing so far this season, had another strong game. He turned aside 28 shots and was particularly strong in the first period when Montreal had three power plays.
"It's nice to win 2-1 games once in a while," Khabibulin said. "We're not going to score five or six goals every game so it's pretty important for myself personally for confidence and for our team to know we can win tight games."
As he has been in each of the first six games, Havlat provided the spark, this time before the disappointingly small crowd of 11,095 had time to settle in the seats.
Havlat, beginning a rush at his own blue line, went past a trio of Canadiens and watched the puck slip off his stick and through the legs of Montreal goaltender David Aebischer just 49 seconds into the game for his seventh goal of the year.
"It slipped pretty nicely," said Havlat, who has 13 points in six games.
Montreal tied the game late in the first period when Chris Higgins beat Khabibulin with a rebound of his own shot. The game-winnertwo minutes into the third periodcame off a classic forecheck with Bryan Smolinski finishing off a perfect pass from Tony Salmelainen on a turnover Jeff Hamilton created.
Tuomo Ruutu skated Tuesday before the Hawks took the ice for their morning skate. It was the second time Ruutu has skated since injuring his knee in the preseason. While he said he felt better than he did Monday, he added, "I don't feel 100 percent, yet." Ruutu, who is becoming an expert on rehabbing injuries, said he hasn't had any setbacks and is optimistic he may return to the lineup by the end of the month. Ruutu hasn't done any hard stop and starts yet and he will have to have at least a couple of full practice session with the team before Yawney will put him in the lineup.
Havlat's goal extended his scoring streak to six games and marked the fifth-straight game in which the Hawks scored first. They are 3-2 in those games. The Hawks lost the faceoff battle 55-45 percent, despite Michal Handzus winning 13 of 22 draws. Montreal was 0-for-6 on the power play, only the second time this season the Hawks have not allowed a power-play goal. The Hawks went 0-for-7 and had a two-man advantage for 1:14 in the second period. The Hawks will try for their third straight victory Friday night in Dallas, where they are 0-5-1-1 in their last seven games. The Hawks last victory in Dallas came March 7, 2001.