Sunday, July 15, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning up next: Blackhawks keep winning the hard way

The Blackhawks were more than happy to end their father-son trip on a positive note with a 1-0 victory over the Bruins, their second consecutive triumph after dropping their previous two games.

"We got four points out of two games, which is beautiful," wing Marian Hossa said.

But there was something that didn't sit quite right with the Hawks after Friday night's game. It followed an all too familiar pattern they have fallen into this season.

Their opponent outplayed them for the first 20 minutes of the game. The Bruins had 17 shots on goal to the Hawks' six. The Hawks relied on their goaltending, this time from Scott Darling, to keep them in the game early. Then the Hawks tightened up defensively and were able to prevail in a close game thanks to a late goal from Hossa, who has delivered late in games all season.

If you didn't know any better, you might think it was still October or November.

"We got better as the game went on," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Big third periods and finding ways to win is something you have to appreciate, and 'Hoss' scoring another big goal. That was definitely representative of what happened in the first 20 games on several nights."

The Hawks have been able to compile 63 points thanks to their success in third periods of tight games. They are 18-7-5 in one-goal games. Thirty of their 48 games this season have been one-goal games. Even in their victory over the Avalanche on Tuesday, the Hawks had to erase a third-period deficit and made it a 6-4 only because of a late empty-net goal.

There is a glass half-full and half-empty perspective on those numbers. It's bad in the sense that at any moment, like a playoff series, bounces or deflections could start going against the Hawks, and that 18-7-5 mark could get worse if they can't start pulling away from opponents.

But it's good in that the Hawks are in almost every game, and they have the poise and confidence to know they can prevail in close games. Goaltending, like the effort the Hawks got from Darling in his second shutout, is a big reason for that. So is Hossa, who has come up with timely goals. His score with 1 minute, 26 seconds remaining near the net off a feed from Tanner Kero was his fifth winner of the season. It was also his first goal since Dec. 15.

"Everybody wants to score the deciding goal, or tie the game," Hossa said. "Obviously, our line didn't have much going offensively, but good things happen when you stay patient and stay with the game plan."

Added Quenneville: "We'll call him clutch. The timing has been outstanding for him and for us. . He goes to the net. It was a great play at the net finding a way to get through. A lot of his goals have been right at that doorstep, which is a nice place to be."

And it helped turn what could have been another loss into two more points in the standings.

"In that early part of the year, we're winning a lot of games saying, 'We're fortunate,' and you can say we were again (Friday)," Quenneville said.

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