At a time when his team needed him most, Jonathan Toews delivered.
Only 65 seconds into Chicago’s 4-2 victory over the league leading New York Rangers the captain was called upon to give his team an early lead on the road.
Ranger defenseman Dan Girardi was whistled for covering a loose puck in the crease resulting in a Toews penalty shot.
With the weight of a nine-game winless streak on his shoulders, Toews picked up the puck at center ice and skated in goaltender Martin Biron.
Coming through the slot Toews faked to his forehand, curled the puck to his backhand, and slide it again to his forehand.
Nearing the middle of the circles he lets it rip, a low, heavy shot with one point of interest — Biron’s five-hole.
It’s a shot Toews has become famous for, a move numerous goalies know is coming, yet can’t figure out a way to stop, and tonight Martin Biron added his name to that list.
1-0 Blackhawks at 1:05 of the first period, a sign of life.
After Toews notched his 28th goal of the season the rest of the Hawks fell in line.
Only a minute after the Toews score, Marian Hossa lugged the puck from the right half boards all the way around the New York zone before dishing off a pass to an open Nick Leddy, who fired it past screened Biron.
2-0 Blackhawks at 2:07 of the first period, and the Hawks weren’t done.
Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa each converted on breakaway opportunities before the ten-minute mark of the opening frame to cushion Chicago to a 4-0 lead.
From there it was special teams and defense — the Hawks downfall over the last nine games — that shut down the hottest team in the NHL.
The Blackhawks stymied the Rangers power play on seven occasions — including a John Scott four-minute penalty in the first period that could have made it a 3-2 game — and only allowed five shots in doing so.
It seemed all of the broken pieces that had led Chicago down this tumultuous path had — at least for 60 minutes — been glued back together.
Even the shaky play of Corey Crawford seemed distant as the sophomore net-minder faced 24 shots, and allowed only two to get past him, good enough for a 91.6% save percentage.
But the real question now becomes can the Hawks sustain the momentum they picked up in New York for the long haul.
After a Saturday matchup in Columbus to close out their nine-game road trip Chicago will face two more red-hot teams — St. Louis and Detroit — looking to capitalize on their division foe’s recent downfall.
If the Blackhawks are going to bust out of their slump, it won’t be on the heels of slouching opponents, the Blues and Red Wings will make sure of it.