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Blackhawks race out to six-goal lead, hang on for victory

Patrick Kane celebrates his third goal of the game in the second period Sunday afternoon. (Getty Images)

Nineteen shots in the first period alone. Goals on the power play, at 5-on-5, at 4-on-4. An 11-point eruption from the reawakened second line, including a hat trick for Patrick Kane and a second straight four-point night for Artemi Panarin. Total domination of the puck, of every facet of the game.

All without Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith and Andrew Shaw. All against a Boston Bruins team that was one point out of the playoff picture, and playing for their postseason lives.

The Blackhawks’ 6-4 victory over the Bruins was an emphatic reminder that, for all their flaws, all their injuries, and all their mediocrity over the last several weeks, they’re still capable of making good teams look comically bad on any given day. They’re still a threat to come out of the Central Division meatgrinder, and they’re still very much a Stanley Cup contender.

Of course, the way they flirted with becoming the first team in NHL history to lose a game they led 6-0 — giving up four goals in barely 10 minutes of play, and allowing 38 shots in the final two periods — is an unsettling reminder of all those flaws, all those injuries, all that mediocrity.

It’s just a matter of which Hawks team shows up next week when the playoffs begin, likely against the St. Louis Blues.

“This one was a little crazier than we envisioned at one point,” Joel Quenneville said. “Way more exciting than we needed it to be.”

But really, the only downside to the game was that Marian Hossa didn’t score his 500th goal, despite four or five golden chances at it. Hossa limped off the ice midway through the third period after a neutral-zone collision, and didn’t return, but Quenneville said he seemed OK and could play Tuesday against Arizona.

With his three goals and an assist — his hat trick fittingly punctuated by a trio of first pumps — Kane reached the 100-point mark for the first time in his career, becoming the first Hawks player to do so since Jeremy Roenick in the 1993-94 season. Joel Quenneville earned his 800th regular-season victory, too. And Panarin, with eight points in two games, rocketed back up into the top 10 in scoring among forwards, putting him in position for a $1.725 million bonus that could wreak havoc with the Hawks’ salary-cap situation next season.

The game was a lopsided affair from the first drop of the puck. Artem Anisimov (one goal, two assists) scored a power-play goal off a flubbed Panarin one-timer midway through the first to make it 1-0, and Kane stole a Joe Morrow pass at the point and raced in on Tuukka Rask alone to make it 2-0. Kane cashed in on a behind-the-back pass from Anisimov 54 seconds into the second period to make it 3-0, and Hossa set up a Jonathan Toews goal on a 2-on-1 at the 2:00 mark to make it 4-0 and send Rask to the bench.

Jonas Gustavsson didn’t fare much better. Panarin made it 5-0 off a Kane feed, and Kane capped the hat trick — his second of the season after going his first eight regular seasons without one — at 14:16 of the second.

It was as impressive as the Hawks have looked all season, a welcome sight after so much poor hockey over the last couple of months.

“It was a great start,” Kane said. “Obviously, you don’t want to give them four goals when you’re up six, but at the same time, you can’t really complain much about the start.”

The fans at the United Center were delirious, tossing hats on the ice and dancing in the aisles. The joy turned to tension with alarming speed, however. David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron scored in the final 15 seconds of the second period, and Bergeron and Brad Marchand scored in the first half of the third period to turn a 6-0 laugher into a 6-4 battle.

But that was as close as Boston got, as the Hawks drew within two points of second-place St. Louis, pending the Blues’ game at Colorado later in the evening.

Despite letting their foot off the gas, the first two periods were a prime example of how the Hawks will need to play in order to make a fourth straight deep playoff run.

“Or better,” Quenneville said. “I know that was as good as we’ve played, but that’s the pace we have to play at — with consistency and purpose, meaning in every shift.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com
Twitter: @marklazerus