CHICAGO – No breather for the Chicago Blackhawks, just another home victory.
Chicago got an unassisted goal from Patrick Kane early in the game, built a three-goal lead and held to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Friday night. “You never relax,” said Chicago’s Troy Brouwer, whose second-period power-play goal put the Blackhawks up by three. “It doesn’t matter where teams are in the standings. They can be dangerous at any time.”
Phil Kessel’s second goal of the game, 5:33 into the final period, pulled Toronto to 3-2 before Chicago held on behind goalie Cristobal Huet, who made 29 saves in the Blackhawks’ sixth straight home win.
One of Huet’s best saves of the night came in the third with the Maple Leafs on a power play when he stopped a hard shot from the circle by Matt Stajan on a give-and-go.
“Huet made the saves when we needed him. And for the most part we did a good job of keeping pressure on and not giving up too much,” said Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith, who had a goal and assist.
Brouwer deflected in teammate Patrick Sharp’s shot on the power play to put the Blackhawks up 3-0 in the second and it looked as if Chicago was on its way to an easy win.
“We let it unravel a little bit,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “I don’t know if we were letting up. They scored a goal late in the (second) period and that gave them some life. At 3-2 it’s a ball game.”
Kane intercepted Luke Schenn as he came around from behind the net, stole the puck from him and scored just 3:22 into the game, his sixth goal of the season.
About 10 minutes later, Keith’s slapper through heavy traffic gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.
Huet stopped two close-in stuff attempts by Niklas Hagman late in the period and officials turned to video replay to see if the puck had crossed the line, eventually ruling there was no conclusive evidence to show that it had.
“I know they say inconclusive, but I don’t know if it can get more conclusive than that from our point of view,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said.
“At least it would have stemmed the bleeding in the first period and we could have come out of the period down 2-1. … The one we saw the puck was in and the puck actually was behind the goal post in his glove. So generally you would have to assume if you don’t see the puck and the glove is behind the goal post, then it’s in the net.”
Kessel’s first goal with just over two minutes left in the second ended Huet’s shutout bid and made it 3-1.
Toronto’s Vesa Toskala made 31 saves, including a nice stop on Jonathan Toews near the end of the third that would have extended Chicago’s lead to three goals.
Toskala made a great pad save against Kane with 2:45 left.
“Vesa had an outstanding night. There was nothing he could do on any of the goals,” Wilson said. “He made a dozen outstanding saves.”
Notes: Wilson, who will coach the U.S. Olympic team, got a close look at two Blackhawks players who could be on his squad in Vancouver – Kane (considered a cinch) and Dustin Byfuglien. … Toskala, who battled a knee injury this year and lost time to Jonas Gustavsson, played for the first time since Oct. 31. … Before Brouwer’s goal, Chicago was 5-for-40 on the power play since Oct. 15. … The crowd of 21,036 was the largest of the season at the United Center.