The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-0 on Wednesday to move back to the top of the NHL Western Conference standings. Goaltender Antti Niemi made 33 saves while Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews all scored as the Blackhawks recorded their second shutout win over the Red Wings in four days.
The result lifted Chicago (24-9-3) back to the top of the standings, level on points with the San Jose Sharks, who beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Tuesday. "There were some pretty strong performances, not only from our defence but from our goaltenders," Sharp said. "Antti made the big saves today, but defensively we were pretty sound." Jimmy Howard made 28 saves for Detroit (18-14-5), who have lost their last three games.
The Red Wings fell behind when Kane gave the visitors the lead 30 seconds into the second period. Sharp followed up with a close-range effort at 3:47 in the third followed by a Toews goal with a little over one minute remaining. The game marked the return to Detroit for winger Marian Hossa, who departed for Chicago in the off-season via free agency. He recorded an assist and was booed by the Red Wings crowd for much of the night.
The Red Wings, who defeated the Blackhawks in last year's conference finals, have fallen behind in the West as they deal with injuries to top players including Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. Still Detroit had chances but went scoreless on five power-play opportunities. "They're a good team and when they play hard and we play hard, right now they're better," said the Red Wings' coach, Mike Babcock.
Elsewhere in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins entered the short Christmas break on a high after a hat-trick from Evgeni Malkin in their 8-2 demolition of the Ottawa Senators. Malkin set the home side up with a fifth-minute opening strike and then added the sixth and eighth goals to take the Penguins joint top of the NHL league standings, alongside the New Jersey Devils. Two goals from Nicklas Backstrom propelled the Washington Capitals to a 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in a match-up of two sides having strong seasons in their respective divisions.
The surging Phoenix Coyotes made it eight home wins in a row by defeating the Anaheim Ducks 4-0, goals coming from Scottie Upshall, Martin Hanzal, Taylor Pyatt and Robert Lang. The league's leading marksman Marian Gaborik netted his 26th goal of the season to wrap up the New York Rangers' 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers. The Rangers have won four straight games. The Boston Bruins edged the Atlanta Thrashers 6-4, while Glen Metropolit scored twice as the Montreal Canadiens blitzed the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1.
There was more misery for the Edmonton Oilers, who crashed to a fifth successive defeat, 3-1 to the Minnesota Wild, while the Toronto Maple Leafs slumped by the same scoreline to the New York Islanders. Two goals apiece from Blair Betts and Mike Richards led the Philadelphia Flyers to a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and James Neal's double secured a 3-1 victory for the Dallas Stars over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The St Louis Blues beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 in a shoot-out, with Patrik Berglund's goal cancelled out by Mark Giordano in regulation time. Brad Boyes and TJ Oshie converted for St Louis in the shoot-out. * With agencies