CHICAGO – An ugly goal might never have looked better to Marian Hossa.
The Chicago Blackhawks winger scored for the first time in nine playoff games during Monday’s 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, knocking a bouncing puck over Michael Leighton from the edge of the crease. The immediate relief was there for everyone to see as he leaned his head back and screamed just like most of the fans in a jam-packed United Center.
“I was looking for some ugly goal like that to get the offence going,” said Hossa.
The veteran is a major focal point in this series because he’s playing in his third consecutive Stanley Cup with a third different team. Chicago now holds a 2-0 lead with the series shifting to Philadelphia—the same situation Hossa’s Detroit Red Wings faced a year ago when they lost to Pittsburgh.
He was feeling extremely good after seeing the goal drought come to an end.
“It bugged me definitely,” said Hossa. “I tried creating offence … but the puck didn’t want to get in. I tried not to get frustrated but it’s in your head.
“Hopefully, now our line keeps going offensively better and better.”
The Blackhawks managed to take the opening games in the series even though stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have yet to register a point—the first time all playoffs each has been held off the scoresheet in consecutive games.
Scoring depth has been a key to Chicago’s success.
“When the other team doesn’t know where the goals are going to come from, it’s tougher to counter,” said forward John Madden.
Chicago’s other goal came from an unlikely source as energy line player Ben Eager beat Leighton just 28 seconds after Hossa made it 1-0 late in the second period. It was the first goal of these playoffs for the former Flyer and just the second of his career in the post-season.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Eager. “It was definitely a nice feeling to see that one go in. It was a big shift for us. Hoss scored a big goal for us and really got the bench going.
“We got out there next and got a nice bounce.”
Coach Joel Quenneville threw Eager and Dustin Byfuglien out for a shift with Toews immediately after Hossa’s goal because he was hoping to get some momentum. It worked perfectly.
“Well, that line, that’s their niche,” said Quenneville. “Their effectiveness is bringing energy, hitting, getting in on the forecheck. They had some shifts in the offensive zone, and a couple of times (Eager) got inserted with different guys over the course of the game.
“But all playoffs long, I think that that group has been useful in their ways.”
When the final buzzer sounded, Eager exchanged some words with Chris Pronger in what he described as “a little post-game chat.” For the second straight game, the veteran Flyers defenceman scooped up the puck before any of the Blackhawks could grab it as a souvenir.
Eager had a message to deliver on behalf of his teammates.
“I told him he can keep it,” he said.