Ruutu—Chicago’s top draft pick in 2001—scored his first NHL goal Sunday as the Blackhawks snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over Nashville.
The Finnish forward, who is already considered a contender for the Calder Trophy, scored the eventual game-winning goal on the power play early in the third period, and won eight of 11 faceoffs.
Aside from Ruutu’s development, the Blackhawks appear to be getting more efficient on the penalty kill. Chicago killed of six of seven short-handed situations against Nashville, a night after allowing four power-play goals in a 7-2 loss to Atlanta.
“We had a tremendous effort from all our players and our goaltending was solid. Our power play efforts have been improving along with our penalty killing,” Hawks coach Brian Sutter said. “We added some grit with the hitting by Ryan Vandenbussche and Ruutu.”
The Blackhawks need Ruutu to mature quickly because star right wing Eric Daze is out with a stiff back and captain Alex Zhamnov will be out for at least six weeks following back surgery.
The Sharks have already been shut out twice this season, most recently suffering a 2-0 setback to Anaheim on Tuesday. San Jose has just one goal in its last three games and has not scored first in any game this season.
“The longer it goes, you begin to find ways to miss because you’re trying so hard,” coach Ron Wilson said. “The puck hasn’t gone where it’s supposed to. The pressure is just increasing. We’re mixing our lines—and we’re open to suggestions.”
STANDINGS (through Oct. 21): Blackhawks - 4 points, 5th place, 3 PB, Central Division. Sharks - 3 points, 4th place (tied), 5 PB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Tyler Arnason, 3 goals and 5 points; six tied with 2 assists; Mark Bell, 26 PIM. Sharks - Alyn McCauley, 2 goals; Vincent Damphousse, 3 assists; McCauley and Damphousse, 3 points; Rob Davison, 19 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 21): Blackhawks - Power play: 13 percent (3 for 23), 20th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.7 percent (37 for 47), 24th. Sharks - Power play: 17.9 percent (5 for 28), 13th. Penalty killing: 82.1 percent (23 for 28), 18th.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Blackhawks, 2-1-1.
LAST MEETING: March 17; Blackhawks, 3-2 (OT). At San Jose, Calif., Thibault made 35 saves and Theo Fleury scored on a breakaway with 3:34 left in overtime.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 0-3-0-0 on the road; Sharks - 0-2-1-0 at home.