Dach hit first jack­pot vs. Ve­gas

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY BEN POPE, STAFF RE­PORTER bpope@sun­times.com | @BenPopeCST

Rookie cen­ter Kirby Dach has fond mem­o­ries of play­ing the Golden Knights this sea­son.

Af­ter all, he scored his first NHL goal against them in his sec­ond ca­reer game Oct. 22.

Late in the first pe­riod, as de­fense­man Olli Maatta cir­cled be­hind the net and out to the right face­off cir­cle, Dach found wide-open space to the left of the crease. Dach whiffed on Maatta’s pass with his stick, but he man­aged to de­flect the puck into the net with his knee and erupted in an ex­u­ber­ant cel­e­bra­tion.

‘‘I grew up dream­ing of play­ing in the NHL, and two games in, you’ve got your first goal,’’ Dach said af­ter the Hawks’ 2-1 shootout loss that night. ‘‘That’s pretty spe­cial. You take them how­ever they come. For me, I’m not re­ally too wor­ried about scor­ing the pretty goals, as long as they go in.’’

Dach’s suc­cess against the Knights con­tin­ued the next month, when he notched his first ca­reer two-point game — a goal and an as­sist — in the Hawks’ 5-3 vic­tory Nov. 13.

That night was part of a seven-points-in-five-games out­burst that rep­re­sented Dach’s first sub­stan­tial of­fen­sive step for­ward in the NHL. His goal came on an im­pres­sive threeon-two rush with Zack Smith and Ryan Car­pen­ter. His first at­tempt was turned away, but he gath­ered the re­bound and ripped it in.

‘‘The first one just went off my shin pad and in, so that’s that,’’ Dach said Sun­day when asked about the two games. ‘‘The sec­ond time, I got a cou­ple of good bounces and nice plays from line­mates to help me out with those.’’

It doesn’t seem like last au­tumn has been on Dach’s mind much since learn­ing of the Hawks-Knights play­off matchup.

‘‘It’s not about in­di­vid­ual suc­cess right now,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s more about team suc­cess and win­ning those im­por­tant games. Whether it’s get­ting points from me or be­ing good on the de­fen­sive side of the puck or do­ing what it takes to win, that’s re­ally the only thing that mat­ters right now.’’

Lehner a taboo sub­ject

The Hawks made it clear they’re not in­ter­ested in talk­ing about goalie Robin Lehner ,as com­pelling as the sto­ry­line about the team-mate-turned-op­po­nent is.

‘‘He’s a part of their team and he’s a good player, but we’ve got a lot to worry about with [the Knights],’’ cen­ter Dy­lan Strome said. ‘‘We’ll do our best to score on him, but our main fo­cus is on Ve­gas and the team as a whole.’’

Coach Jeremy Col­li­ton was asked con­sec­u­tive ques­tions about Lehner and showed grow­ing ex­as­per­a­tion about the sub­ject.

‘‘There’s turnover in the league; [it] changes ev­ery year,’’ Col­li­ton said the first time. ‘‘I don’t think it’s that out of the or­di­nary that you’ll face an old team­mate in the play­offs. Ob­vi­ously, when we pre­pare for Ve­gas, he’s part of it. But we’re fo­cused on their whole group.’’

The sec­ond time, he said: ‘‘Lis­ten, he was a big part of our team when he was here. But at the same time, it’s over. Our to­tal fo­cus is on beat­ing Ve­gas, and that’s what we’re go­ing to talk about.’’

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/AP

Black­hawks rookie cen­ter Kirby Dach cel­e­brates his first NHL goal last fall against the Knights. He also had his first two-point game against them.

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