Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday)


Hawks, who have an 8-6-0 record since March 5, hold on to top Western Conference-leading Stars

- BEN POPE | @BenPopeCST

Over the last month, the Blackhawks have been a winning team.

That might sound strange, and it’s influenced by some good luck and a relatively easy schedule, but there’s no denying this fact: The Hawks are 8-6-0 since March 5.

They held on to beat the Western Conference-leading Stars 3-2 at the United Center on Saturday.

Goalie Petr Mrazek made a season-high 42 saves on 44 shots to help the Hawks improve to 5-1-0 in their last six home games and snap the Stars’ eight-game winning streak.

“It has been a tough year with our record

and everything, but it shows a lot about our group that we’re sticking with it,” rookie Connor Bedard said. “To see some results here in the last little bit is great for us.

“A lot of [our] guys coming in haven’t gotten to win in this league. There’s obviously the guys who have played in the league a bit that have experience­d that, but for us to not [exactly] get used to it but to feel [what it’s like] above .500 is a big positive.”

The Hawks generated all their offense within a roughly four-minute span of the second period — a period in which they were outshot 23-6. They did, however, earn all three goals with impressive plays; they weren’t fluky.

Bedard snapped a seven-game goal drought and scored only his fourth powerplay goal (a surprising stat) with a shot that beat Stars goalie Scott Wedgewood and rattled into the net off the far post.

Lukas Reichel made arguably his best play of the season a minute later, slicing between two defensemen with speed on a reload rush.

He drew a holding penalty that didn’t end up mattering because, from his knees, he set up Andreas Athanasiou for Athanasiou’s longawaite­d first goal of the season.

“That was sick,” Bedard said. “And that’s what [Lukas] can do. He’s so skilled, so fast. . . . If you’re watching him, ‘iso-cam’-ing him, there are so many little plays that he’s making every night. It’s good to see him get rewarded.”

The Hawks increased their lead when Seth Jones unleashed a perfectly placed shot into the top corner after a cross-ice feed from Ryan Donato.

Outside of that quick burst, the Hawks were hunkered down in their defensive zone for the vast majority of the game, conceding 89 shots — one shy of the most they’ve allowed all season.

Roope Hintz and Jamie Benn scored for the Stars to make things interestin­g, and the visitors spent the last 3:50 on a continuous man advantage of some sort — first on a power play, then with the goalie pulled — but

the Hawks held on.

Mrazek, who set a career high with his 50th start, looked even more exhausted than usual after the game. He said he desperatel­y needed the second intermissi­on to regroup.

“We were close to snapping,” Jones said. “But with Petr in the net, he has our full trust that he’s going to make big saves for us. Even when he probably shouldn’t make the saves, he’s going to make them.”

The Hawks’ springtime surge has them three points behind the Ducks for 30th place, which could slightly alter their draft-lottery odds. One glance at their 23-48-5 overall record, though, makes it easy to understand why the players appreciate these recent results.

“[When] you look at the totality of the season, it doesn’t mean much, but we still want to . . . understand what it feels like to win,” Jones said. “That builds that winning mentality. If you look at the last six weeks, maybe we finish out the year strong [and] can take that into the summer.”

 ?? MARK BLACK/AP ?? Landon Slaggert (84), Seth Jones (4), MacKenzie Entwistle (58) and Ryan Donato celebrate after Jones’ second-period goal against the Stars on Saturday at the United Center.
MARK BLACK/AP Landon Slaggert (84), Seth Jones (4), MacKenzie Entwistle (58) and Ryan Donato celebrate after Jones’ second-period goal against the Stars on Saturday at the United Center.
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