CHICAGO (TICKER) —Returning home did nothing to reverse the fortunes of the struggling Chicago Blackhawks.
Ed Belfour made 32 saves against his former team and defenseman Jyrki Lumme and Tie Domi scored 78 seconds apart in the first period as the Toronto Maple Leafs stretched their winning streak against the Blackhawks to four games with a 3-1 victory.
The Blackhawks took the ice at the United Center for the first time since a disappointing 2-4-1 road trip. And Mark Bell gave Chicago a 1-0 advantage just 64 seconds into the contest.
But Alyn McCauley tied it at 2:51 and Lumme and Domi capped a three-goal first period as Toronto rallied for its sixth win in seven games.
Belfour stopped all 20 shots over the final two periods, improving to 5-1 in his last six starts.
“That’s the biggest reason that we have improved is because of (goaltending),” Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. “Even though we had a good first period, I thought the last two periods we really didn’t hit or check anyone. And if we didn’t have good goaltending, the game could have been a different result.”
Jocelyn Thibault settled down and made 25 saves for the Blackhawks, who fell four points behind Anaheim for the final Western Conference playoff berth. They have just two wins in the last 12 games (2-8-2).
Chicago’s offensive woes continued as it was kept under three goals for the seventh time in 12 games.
“When you don’t score, the first thing that happens is that people start feeling sorry for themselves. And then they get frustrated,” Blackhawks coach Brian Sutter said. “But at some point, you just have to get (ticked) off and dig down and make a stronger effort. This was a tough game to play in. And to get anything, you needed to have a second or third effort.”
Sutter also said his team did not get the puck on net enough.
“Well, that’s something we talk about all the time, and I don’t know what it is, whether we’re just being hard-headed or what,” Chicago winger Steve Thomas said. “But we have to go to the net when shots are there. We also have to get people in front of the net because that’s how goals are scored.”
Bell’s wrister from the slot slipped inside the right goalpost and got the Blackhawks off to an ideal start.
“I got off to a little bit of a shaky start,” Belfour admitted. “I guess it was a bit of a wake-up call.”
Tom Fitzgerald created a goal for McCauley for the second straight game. Fitzgerald’s shot from the right point was stopped by Thibault, but McCauley pounced on the rebound and put it by the goalie for his sixth of the season, knotting the contest at 1-1.
“On that play, Fitzy made a great decision to put the puck on the net,” McCauley said. “I was just able to come in and get the rebound and was able to put it in the net.”
The assist was Fitzgerald’s 300th NHL point.
“I thought Alyn’s line was the best line last night (against Edmonton) … and I thought they were our best line tonight, too,” Quinn said.
Lumme’s slapper from the high slot squeezed under the crossbar to give Toronto a 2-1 advantage 6:28 into the game.
Domi took a whack at the puck in the right corner and it knuckled over Thibault and into the net to give the Maple Leafs a two-goal cushion.
“We had a bad first period, even though we started by scoring the first goal,” Thibault said. “But after that, they scored a few goals and tonight, that was the game.”
This was the lone meeting between these Original Six clubs this season. For the first time in NHL history, the Blackhawks will not visit Toronto during a campaign.