Andrew Ladd scored two goals and an assist and Scott Darling made 31 saves to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen also scored for Chicago, who started a four-game road trip with a key win. The Hawks sit two points ahead of Nashville for third place in the Central Division standings. Marcus Kruger also returned to the lineup for the first time since December to stabilize the fourth line.
After coach Joel Quenneville preached earlier in the week about getting off to a better start than they had been lately, the Hawks produced a so-so effort in the first period. The Flames had the better of the quality scoring chances, but Darling was good enough to keep the game scoreless through the first 26 minutes.
At 14:09 of the second period, Ladd pounced on an awful T.J. Brodie turnover, found himself all alone at the top of the slot, and beat Flames goalie Joni Ortio to put the Hawks on the board.
Dougie Hamilton tied the score at 1-1 with about eight minutes left in the period, finding a shanked shot attempt by his brother Freddie Hamilton on his stick and an open net to deposit it in.
At this point, the game got a little chippy. First, Shaw got acquainted with Flames forward Garnet Hathaway after they were both sent to the box for coincidental roughing penalties:
Then, a skirmish between Hamilton and Jonathan Toews, among others, led to about a five minute stretch where the Hawks found themselves on a four-on-three penalty kill, then a five-on-three, all with Toews in the box. But Darling stepped up big with a couple excellent saves to keep the game tied before Shaw put the Hawks back ahead 2-1 on a redirect from Michal Rozsival with 49 seconds left in the period. Shaw has now scored in three consecutive games and has 14 on the season.
Kruger was also instrumental on the long penalty kill and played well overall in his return to the lineup. He played more than 13 minutes, had three shots on goal and lead the Hawks in possession. However, Shaw took the majority of draws when they were together at even strength. Could it be a sign that Kruger isn't 100 percent? Might be a situation to monitor going forward.
Ladd and Teravainen added empty net goals late in the third period to push the final score to 4-1. Ladd now has five goals in the 12 games since he returned to the Hawks.
A positive to take from tonight's game was the improved effort on defense and timely goaltending. Darling bailed out the Hawks after a couple of hot potato passes in the defensive zone early, but they seemed energized after that crucial penalty kill and were solid the rest of the way. However, the top two lines mostly struggled tonight and the power play has not scored in the last 22 chances.
The Hawks still have a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win Sunday night against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.