Usually pitchers are ahead of hitters at this point, but the Blackhawks were able to get good wood on the puck and made some solid contact with their bodies Sunday.
The Hawks knocked two pucks out of midair and past Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo en route to a 4-1 victory in a physical game before a crowd of 19,670 at the United Center. The win kept the Hawks' postseason dreams alive as they knocked off a team ahead of them and again moved within six points of the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Rookie Patrick Kane scored two goals and added an assist, and the Hawks' defense clamped down and held Vancouver to 10 shots on goal, including none during a second-period five-on-three disadvantage.
"It's the first time I've had to face that [few] shots in a game," said Hawks goaltender Patrick Lalime, who improved to 13-10-2. "What an effort it was from everybody, penalty killers especially. When you're committed to giving 10 shots against it says a lot about the guys who played the game. They wanted to win bad, desperately."
Not only did the Hawks outshoot the Canucks 28-10, they outhit them 26-13.
Andrew Ladd slid a backhand shot past Luongo late in the first period to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. It was Ladd's second goal with the Hawks since being acquired in a trade from Carolina on Tuesday.
"This one was definitely circled on the calendar," said Ladd, who has 11 goals this season. "Any time you're playing the teams you're trying to catch, those are huge games."
Kane's second-period goal on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead. It was his 15th goal of the season and helped put him back on top in the NHL's rookie scoring race.
"It's nice to get a win against them, especially in the playoff hunt," Kane said. "Every win from here on out is huge, especially against a team like that that's battling to get into the playoffs."
After Ryan Kesler's goal late in the second brought the Canucks to within 2-1, the Hawks' batters stepped up in the third. First, Patrick Sharp knocked a shot by Duncan Keith out of midair past Luongo for his 32nd goal of the season, and Kane batted in a rebound of a shot by Ben Eager four minutes later for the final margin.
"I've been able to get my stick on a few of them this year," Sharp said. "Instead of tipping it down I wanted to try to tip it up, and luckily it went in. If you look at the goals we scored I don't know if you can really fault [Luongo] on any of them. It's a big two points for us."
One negative result of the hard-hitting game was an injury to Jonathan Toews after Matt Pettinger got his elbow up on the Hawks rookie and inflicted a deep cut in his mouth that required 50 stitches. Cam Barker defended his Hawks teammate and drew instigator, fighting and game-misconduct penalties. Toews' status for Tuesday night's game against the Wild in Minnesota likely will be determined Monday.
Blackhawks 4, Canucks 1