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Panik’s hat trick, Schmaltz’s first NHL goal boost Hawks

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CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 17: Richard Panik #14 of the Chicago Blackhawks is congratulated by teammates after scroing a first period goal against the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center on January 17, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

by Scott King

Hawks rookie forward Nick Schmaltz scored his first NHL goal at 6:36 in the first period of Saturday’s second of back-to-backs with the Nashville Predators. Schmaltz set the table for the Blackhawks to find their scoring in the 5-3 victory, their first of the season.

Offense was something missing in the team’s first two games.

“This team doesn’t have a problem scoring,” Schmaltz said. “Every line can score. So just to contribute feels really good. It’s a really good team win tonight.”

With his first out of the way, Schmaltz can just stick to his game going forward.

“You always want to get it out of the way as soon as you can. It’s definitely something you want to check off your accomplishments, so It’s a good feeling. Hopefully there’s many more to come.

“That’s every guy’s dream that steps in this league to score their first NHL goal. So to get it in the first few games is pretty special and l hope I can continue to help this team.”

Winger Richard Panik followed Schmaltz’s lead and kept going. The forward was given a top opportunity on the Hawks top line this season and Saturday night he cashed in. Panik netted the team’s first hat trick of the year. The first goal of which was reminiscent of a Patrick Kane-esque back hand off a spin-o-rama.

“Those first two games I got an opportunity on the top line,” Panik said. “We lost those two games so we weren’t happy about it, but tonight we won so we are pretty happy.”

“My biggest weakness [before] was to stay consistent, so I’m just trying to focus on that and bring it every night.”

Goaltender Scott Darling put on a show for his first game in net. The Hawks’ last line of defense stopped 33 of Nashville’s 36 shots in the contest. Many of those stops were highlight real saves.

Next up

The Hawks take on the Philadelphia Flyers at home Tuesday night at 7:30 pm.

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