Blackhawks Obliterate Defending Champs on Opening Night

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Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad, left, scores against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Antti Niemi during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

by Scott King

After a devastatingly embarrassing sweep by the the Nashville Predators last year in the playoffs, their second-straight first round elimination, the Blackhawks needed more scoring and they needed some push back.

Apparently, the new-look Blackhawks got the memo prior to their season opener vs. the defending champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Thursday night at the United Center.

The Hawks dictated the pace and played hard early on. Chicago chased goalie Antti Niemi in the first half of the first period by scoring four unanswered goals.

“I really kind of like the way everybody was ready for the game,” Hawks winger Patrick Kane said. “It was the first meaningful game we’ve played in a long time. I don’t know if it’s a sour taste in our mouth of what happened last spring, but I think it’s a new group in here, it seems like we have a lot of energy and a lot of speed.”

The Penguins, who became the first NHL team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions in the salary cap era last year, lost at home Wednesday night 5-4 in overtime to the St. Louis Blues. Matt Murray started in net Wednesday for Pittsburgh.

Ryan Hartman scored the first goal of the season for the Hawks on a no-look pass from Patrick Kane at 6:21 into the first period.

Brandon Saad kept the scoring going, followed by Nick Schmaltz and then Saad again. It took under three minutes to score the four goals. The Blackhawks had scored more goals in the first half of the first period than they did all last postseason (three).

Patrick Sharp scored on a mini-breakaway later on in the first period to put the Hawks up 5-0. It was Sharp’s 600th career NHL point.

Phil Kessel got the Penguins on the board on a five-on-three power play. Patrick Kane answered right back by roofing the puck past goaltender Matt Murray with a backhand to make it 6-1 Hawks.

The Penguins couldn’t stop the bleeding as Richard Panik and Nick Schmaltz also scored in the second period to give the Hawks an 8-1 lead after two.

Brandon Saad was able to complete the hat trick early in the third period.

“He’s going to the net,” Kane said of Saad. “Whether he’s getting a stick on it or a skate or part of his body, I think he can do some good things over there, and that line is only going to get better once they get more chemistry and keep building, so they’ll be a force.”

Brent Seabrook scored later to put up a 10 spot on the Pens and make the final score 10-1 in favor of the Hawks. It was the first time the Blackhawks scored 10 goals in a game since October 12, 1988 in a 10-1 win over Winnipeg.

“I think as a team that’s how we want to play,” Saad said. “[Whether] if it’s the quick transition, the speed, getting pucks in low, deep past their d’, especially with them playing last night. We have a message in our style of play and I think we did a great job tonight.

Behind Enemy Lines

“I mean we made mistakes and they buried it,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of the lopsided defeat. “Sometimes you make those mistakes, you get away with it, they capitalized on every one.”

In net

Corey Crawford made 28 saves on 29 Penguins’ shots in the victory.

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