Leafs Can't Slow Down Blackhawks In Third
The Canadian Press
| Game In Six
(TORONTO) (CP) --
Denis Savard would have thrived playing with the group he's coaching now.
Savard, whose offensive flair earned him a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame, finally has the attacking talent to build a winner in Chicago.
``That's where we're heading,'' he said after the Blackhawk's come-from-behind 6-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
``We're not quite there yet. We've still got lots of things to improve on, but our organization has done a great job acquiring the veteran guys we've got and the kids we drafted. We've got more to come, too.''
This dynamic mix of savvy veterans and fast young legs improved to 5-3-0, which puts them near the top of the Central Division in the NHL's Western Conference.
It's a great start for a franchise that hasn't had a playoff spot since 2002 and in eight of the last nine seasons. Savard is hoping it'll fill some of those empty seats in the United Centre.
``Chicago fans will be back,'' Savard predicted. ``They've got a lot to look forward to.''
Against the Leafs, the Blackhawks were trailing 3-1 when the third period began, but they rallied for five goals in the last 20 minutes to win for the second time in two nights. They'd beaten Colorado 5-3 at home on Friday and arrived at their Toronto hotel at 3 a.m. ET.
Jason Williams, Andrei Zyuzin, Duncan Keith, Robert Lang, Patrick Sharp and Tuomo Ruutu, with an empty netter with 25 seconds left, scored for the Blackhawks. Patrick Lalime, the fifth consecutive backup to be used against the Leafs, earned the goaltending victory.
It was a disciplined performance all-around. Chicago was 4-for-7 on power plays, and took only one minor penalty all night in preventing Toronto similar extra-man opportunities.
First-liner centre Jonathan Toews, 19, earned one assist and first-line winger Patrick Kane, 18, got two. They didn't score goals, but their speed, agility and craftiness set the tone, and their older teammates followed.
``Their will is so huge and you can't teach that,'' said Savard. ``They're great players but, more important, their will is huge.''
It was Chicago's first game outside the United States this season.
``It was awesome to play that first game in Canada,'' said Toews, a native of Winnipeg who was the third overall pick in the 2006 entry draft out of the University of North Dakota. ``I had it marked on my calendar. I was definitely looking forward to it.''
He's far from midseason shape, he said, although the highlight reel goal he scored Friday still has fans talking.
``Compared to the college level, everyone knows it's an adjustment,'' he said. ``The speed of the game obviously is different.
``You've definitely got to play with your head up out there. I know the first few games I was battling the puck and got my head down here and there. In the last few games I definitely feel more confident with the puck. When you keep your head up, it buys you a lot more time and space. I think that's why I've been playing better the last few games.''
Kane also is making a quick adaptation to the big league. The native of Buffalo, N.Y., was the first overall draft pick out of the OHL's London Knights last June.
``We said special teams was going to win the game and we got four power-play goals,'' said Kane. ``That was obviously the difference in the game. It worked for us and we're glad it did.''
Speed is quickly becoming their trademark.
``We're a fast team,'' said Kane. ``We pride ourselves in that. Speed and puck possession - we always want to have the puck.''
Like Toews, Kane ate up the atmosphere in the 19,314-full Air Canada Centre.
``It was unbelievable,'' he said. ``It's a lot different than the States. You kind of wish every game was this exciting. It was awesome. I had a great time.''
Mats Sundin scored twice and Tomas Kaberle
and Chad Kilger once each for the Leafs, 3-4-2. Andrew Raycroft played well through two periods but couldn't cope with the Blackhawks' third-period splurge.
``It comes down to penalties,'' said Raycroft. ``They're just killing us. It's frustrating.''
Alexei Ponikarovsky took three of Toronto's seven minor penalties.
``I got three tonight? I don't know, in my opinion, (the referees) could call some penalties on them, too, but for some reason, (they) were pissed off at us,'' said Ponikarovsky. ``I don't know why, (but the referees) were just looking for us.''
He was especially upset about his last penalty _ the one that killed any chance Toronto had of a last-minute equalizer with Raycroft out for an extra attacker.
``The guy turned, I tried to get his stick up, and he was too tired and just fell down,'' said Ponikarovsky. ``I didn't hook him or anything. He dove and (the referee) called the penalty. (The referee) was looking for it.''
Blowing a 3-1 lead was unacceptable, said Alex Steen.
``Against a team that played the night before and three (games) in four nights,'' he said in exasperation.
As soon as Chicago tied it 3-3 with two goals in 30 seconds early in the third period, the Leafs tightened up, said Steen.
``It's a bad circle right now we need to get out of, and the only way to get out of it is hard work,'' he said. ``Even though we have the lead, we need to be able to play the puck and want the puck.
``We started good. We had a couple big goals from Mats. It all comes down to the third period. We need to play a much, much better third period. Like I said before, it's unacceptable.''
The Leafs entered the game ranked 28th in the league on the power play and were 0-for-1 in this one, leaving them at 5-for-45 on the season.
Shots were 39-32 in Chicago's favour. ... Chicago improved to 5-3-0 and Toronto slipped to 3-4-2 in front of an announced Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,314. ... Toronto's next game is at home against Atlanta on Tuesday (Sportsnet Ontario, 7:30 p.m. ET). ... Leafs centre Nik Antropov entered the game leading the league with a plus 10 plus-minus rating. ... Sundin upped his career total to 528 goals. That's only five behind Frank Mahovlich, who is 27th on the all-time NHL list. ... Chicago's Martin Havlat remains out with a shoulder injury suffered Oct. 4. ... Blake entered the game third in the league in shots on goal (36) trailing only Brendan Shanahan (40) and Mike Cammelleri (38). ... It was the only meeting between the teams this season.
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