Jonathan Toews #19 and Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks talk in a break from Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena on April 21, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Blackhawks defeated the Coyotes 2-1 in overtime.
(April 20, 2012 - Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

High-powered ‘Hawks, Pens look to cure power play woes


Pittsburgh and Chicago finished 1st and 10th in the NHL in power play efficiency during the regular season but, through three games of their respective opening-round series, both have had problems scoring with the man advantage.

The Pens have just three power play goals versus Columbus despite having the most opportunities (17) in the playoffs thus far — the Blue Jackets have scored twice shorthanded, too — while the ‘Hawks have gone a measly 1-for-14 against St. Louis with the man advantage.

“Certainly the power play was not very good,” Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Sun-Times. “You don’t want to lose the momentum off it during a game and those offensive guys feed off that and get more comfortable with the puck as you progress in the game. We need that to be something to trigger our offense.”

It’s hard to know exactly where to start with Chicago’s anemic PP. The ‘Hawks have struggled to put shots on goal — just four in four man advantage opportunities during the Game 3 win — but there’s also the Blues’ penalty kill to consider. It finished second in the league during the regular season, working at an impressive 85.7 percent clip. Quenneville acknowledged the Blues “move really well as a team and are well coached” on the penalty kill… but that doesn’t escape the fact Chicago had good success against St. Louis during the regular season, going 5-for-14 over six games.

Pittsburgh also seems to have a multitude of issues to correct. Surrendering shorthanded goals is an issue, as is the lack of shots — just 24 on 17 opportunities — and one has to mention the power play is scoreless in its last 12 opportunities. The Pens scored three times on their first five chances, but have been silent ever since.

The key to solving the problem, according to James Neal, is to get back to the shoot-first mentality.

“The most important thing you need is an attacking mindset,” he said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You’ve got to be shooting pucks and pressuring. When you do that, it puts the penalty-kill back on their heels. That’s something we’ve done all year.”

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.