Dominik Kubalik scored two goals, including the game-winner, to extend his point streak to five games en route to the victory.
The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 at the United Center on Saturday night to move to 20-20-6 through 46 games. Dominik Kubalik scored two goals to tie Buffalo Sabres forward Victor Olofsson for the most goals among NHL rookies with 16. Robin Lehner made 35 saves to earn the victory in his first start since suffering a knee injury on Jan. 2 in Vancouver.
“I didn’t feel great at the start. I think as the game went on, I felt better and better,” Lehner said. “Kind of felt a little weird at first. The first period I didn’t feel quite right, the second period was a little weird [since I] didn’t have much to do until the last five minutes pretty much.”
It took the Blackhawks’ opponent just three minutes to take the lead for the second consecutive game as Max Jones made it 1-0 Ducks at 3:37. Ducks forward Ondrej Kase made a nifty play to steal Connor Murphy’s pass from behind the Blackhawks’ net to set up Jones for a one-timer.
Jonathan Toews tied the game 1-1 at 8:13 of the first period on a 2-on-1 rush with John Quenneville. Toews picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and beat Ducks goaltender John Gibson five-hole for his 11th goal of the season.
The Blackhawks fell behind in the early minutes once again, but they got better as the period went on and came out of the first period tied 1-1.
Kubalik gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the night at 4:20 of the second period for his 15th goal of the season. Patrick Kane’s backhand shot was stopped by Gibson, but Kubalik pounced on the rebound to make it 2-1 Hawks.
With the goal, Kubalik extended his point streak to five games. Kane recorded his 995th career point with the assist and extended his point streak to six games as well.
Less than 10 minutes later, Kubalik found the back of the net again off a rebound to make it 3-1 Blackhawks. Zack Smith found Connor Murphy open at the point for a one-timer that was stopped by Gibson, but Kubalik was ‘Johnny on the spot’ to give the Hawks a two-goal lead. The 24-year-old rookie has eight points (5G, 3A) during his five-game point streak.
“If you look at his goals, you’d be surprised how many he scores from just being at the net, just standing there being in front,” coach Jeremy Colliton said on Kubalik. “You can get a rebound or it goes off you. That’s one thing that’s really helped him this season.”
After looking sluggish in the first 20 minutes, the Blackhawks were dominant in the second period, outshooting the Ducks 19-7.
Rickard Rakell cut the Blackhawks lead in half just 2:29 into the third period as he blew past Smith in transition and jammed a rebound past Lehner to make it 3-2.
The Blackhawks answered back to regain their two-goal lead just over a minute later as Olli Maatta clapped a one-timer past Gibson. Alex DeBrincat had a strong zone entry to create separation and find Maatta at the blue line for his third goal of the season.
Lehner was called upon often in the final minutes of the game, but the 2019 Vezina Trophy finalist kept the puck out of the net to secure the win. Lehner has now won eight of his last 10 starts.
“Our game over a long stretch of time is improved,” Colliton said. “[It] doesn’t mean we’re a finished product, but if we keep getting better and the young players continue to develop, we can be in the race (for the playoffs).”
The Blackhawks get the next two days off to prepare for the upcoming Eastern-Canadian road trip. They’ll be back in action on Tuesday in Ottawa to take on the 16-22-7 Senators at Canadian Tire Centre. The contest is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT and is scheduled to be on NBCSCH and NHL.TV.
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