Penalty kill keys Hawks' win vs. Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Chicago Blackhawks might as well have been testing the limits of their penalty kill on Wednesday.

The Blackhawks had been steadily building confidence and percentage points on their penalty kill over the past month, but what they faced and overcame against the Anaheim Ducks’ power play was at a whole different level.

The Blackhawks killed off 40 seconds of a five-on-three power play, a four-minute double-minor and a total of five power plays during a 2-0 win over the Ducks at the Honda Center.

“Gigantic,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said in describing the team’s penalty kill. “That five-on-three kill there with that power play and the looks, getting through it was huge. They had a couple good looks. [Goaltender Corey Crawford] made some key saves and had some blocks and had some fortunate bounces, but to me that was a big part of the game for us.”

The Blackhawks gave the Ducks a five-on-three power play in the first period, when Andrew Shaw was called for hooking at 12:00 and Brent Seabrook was whistled for tripping at 13:20. During the 40 seconds, Crawford made four saves and the penalty-kill units of Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews, Michal Rozsival and Hjalmarsson kept the Ducks off the board.

The Blackhawks were given their next test when Rozsival caught the Ducks’ Patrick Maroon in the face with his stick and drew blood. Rozsival was given a double-minor for high-sticking with 3:49 left in the second period.

From the first puck drop of the power play to the end of the second period, the Blackhawks thwarted every Ducks’ chance. Crawford made three saves. The Blackhawks blocked four shots. They also cleared the puck six times and made six line changes. Toews won the faceoff to begin the third period and the Blackhawks killed off the remaining 11 seconds of the power play.

“Those things kind of give you confidence for the next periods,” Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa said. “That really helped us going to the second and third periods. That was a huge kill, especially the five-on-three against a top line like that.”

Kruger led the Blackhawks with 5:31 of shorthanded ice time. Keith (4:38), Hjalmarsson (5:12), Seabrook (3:49), Sheldon Brookbank (1:37), Toews (3:23), Michal Handzus (4:38), Rozsival (3:26) and Hossa (3:03) also spent plenty of time on the penalty kill.

Toews gave Crawford the most credit, though, on the penalty kill. He made 11 power-play saves.

“He was awesome,” Toews said. “He was our best penalty killer. We needed him to be.”

The Blackhawks have come a long way in their penalty kill from the beginning of the season. With the five kills, the Blackhawks have elevated their penalty kill percentage to 80.2 on the season. They had a 73.1 percentage and were ranked 29th in the league as of Dec. 14.

“I think we’re getting better and better at those little details and just relaxing under pressure and making sure every guy is playing their own position,” Toews said. “I think we proved that tonight. For a stretch there, we weren’t doing those things, and things weren’t going really well for us.”

Things went really well for them on Wednesday.