CHICAGO – Known for its speed and skilled young offensive stars, the Chicago Blackhawks are winning with defence and goaltending.
Cristobal Huet made 27 saves for his second shutout of the season, and Patrick Kane assisted on all three Chicago goals to match a career high in the Blackhawks’ 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.
Troy Brouwer, Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa scored, and Jonathan Toews had two assists.
With Huet’s 22nd career shutout, the Blackhawks have not allowed a goal over two games and a span of 141:21. Backup goalie Antti Niemi blanked Tampa Bay 4-0 on Sunday night in Chicago’s previous contest.
The Blackhawks also lowered their NHL-leading team goals-against average to 1.96.
“The way we play, it’s tough to play against,” Huet said. “We expect a lot of games like that. That’s how we want to do it.”
Simply, players like Kane, Toews, Hossa and defenceman Duncan Keith can control the puck and did against the Blues. Even if the talented Blackhawks don’t score, the other team can’t.
“Its puck possession,” Huet added. “We try to make a play where we keep control of the puck and eventually make a play to the net. The other thing is, we put the puck in the net.”
Kane, the Blackhawks’ leading points scorer, returned to face the Blues after leaving Sunday’s game with a cut above his left eye that required seven stitches.
“Kaner had a great game,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “He had the puck a lot. He made several key, nice plays and not just the ones that showed up on the scoresheet.”
“The offence and the defence click,” Kane said. “The goaltenders have been good, but it’s not just the goaltenders; our team defence has been good, too.”
The Blackhawks improved their NHL-leading home record to 14-3-1. At 21-8-3 overall, Chicago is off to its best start since 1982-83 when it was 21-5-6 after 32 games.
Ty Conklin made 32 saves for the Blues, who dropped to 8-3-3 on the road. He stopped breakaways by Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd.
“They’re a good team, no question about it,” St. Louis forward David Backes said. “They play fast, they play together and they support the puck. When you play a team like that with the effort they put in, you need to match it up.”
The Blues didn’t, according to coach Andy Murray.
“It was a case of not having enough of the guys we need to be good being good tonight,” Murray said.
Chicago defenceman Cam Barker left the game early in the third period with a lower-body injury that Quenneville didn’t believe was serious.
The Blackhawks outshot the Blues 21-9 in the first period and led 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Brouwer opened the scoring on with 5:27 left in the first when his shot from the top of the right circle deflected in off St. Louis defenceman Barret Jackman.
Campbell made it 2-0 just over three minutes later during a power-play on a screened drive from the right point. The sailed past Conklin on the stick side.
The power-play goal was just Chicago’s second in 22 chances over six games.
The Blues had few prime chances against Huet. However, David Perron’s shot from a sharp angle early in the second slithered past Huet and across the crease. With 7:50 left in the period, Huet made a sharp glove save on B.J. Crombeen’s shot from the slot.
Hossa’s goal with 3:06 left in the second extended the Blackhawks’ lead to 3-0. Left uncovered in the slot when two Blues defencemen drifted to the crease, Hossa took Toews’ feed from behind the net and fired a shot in off Conklin’s pad.
Huet made a quick pad save on Paul Kariya with four minutes left in the third.
NOTES: The back-to-back shutouts by Huet and Niemi were the first by two Chicago goalies since Tony Esposito and Murray Bannerman did it in March 1983. … The last goal allowed by Chicago was to Buffalo’s Clarke MacArthur at 18:39 of the second period in a 2-1 loss the Sabres last Friday night. … The game was the first this season between the Central Division rivals, both of whom played their 32nd contest. Chicago and St. Louis each had faced every other team in the Western Conference. … Chicago RW Tomas Kopecky and Blues RW Keith Tkachuk were healthy scratches. … St. Louis D Eric Brewer sat out his 10th game with a back injury. … The crowd of 21,137 was a season high for the Blackhawks and their 68th straight sellout. … Blackhawks career scoring leader Stan Mikita dropped the ceremonial first puck with his three grandsons.