Kostka bites hand that fed him in Hawks win
On a night that should have belonged to Dave Bolland, it was Blackhawks defenseman Mike Kostka muscling his way into the picture against his old team.
Kostka stunned his former Toronto teammates with his first NHL goal and it turned out to be the game-winner as the Hawks beat the Maple Leafs 3-1 at the United Center on Saturday.
Kostka jumped on a loose puck in the slot and bounced a shot off Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier at 10:28 of the second period. He did a slow fist pump to the sky to celebrate.
"There's a few games that was built up on," Kostka said. "It was a long time waiting so I needed to throw a little something into that because apparently it doesn't happen too often.
"It was a special night to be able to get that and a little extra sweet to do it against my old team."
Bryan Bickell scored his first goal of the season at 5:32 of the second period when he pounced on a soft rebound by Bernier, circled to the right and beat Paul Ranger to the open net, tucking the puck inside the post.
"I didn't really know I had that in me," Bickell joked. "I think Q was losing it on the bench.
"There's been a lot of pressure to produce and I got away from what worked."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville couldn't believe Bickell put on the extra move before shooting.
"I was wondering why he didn't put it in, but at the end it was a nice finish," Quenneville said. "He showed some good patience on the play. It was good to see him get that one off his back. I'm sure he'll be more comfortable in the scoring areas going forward."
Bickell certainly looked more comfortable back on the third line with Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw.
"I think he's probably more comfortable playing in that position where he was accustomed to the last few years," Quenneville said.
Pirri made it 3-1 on a power play at 16:49 of the second period when he re-directed a pass from Brandon Saad past Bernier for his second goal in as many games.
"Playing with great players here, it's easy to do what you're supposed to," said Pirri, who also assisted on Kostka's goal for his first career multi-point game.
The Hawks outshot the Maple Leafs 40-20 for the game and 20-6 in the second period. Quenneville thought it was his team's best 60-minute effort of the season.
"I thought we got what we were looking for tonight as far as chances, zone time, consistency across the lines," Quenneville said. "I know we've had some good periods - but start to finish tonight is what we were looking for."
The appreciative Hawks fans cheered Bolland loudly when he was introduced before the game to take the ceremonial opening puck drop with Patrick Kane.
Later, Bolland gave the crowd a wave amid more cheers when the Hawks gave him a video tribute.
"It (the tribute) was great," Bolland said. "It was always a great organization with great fans, who were always great to me.
"They're a good team. When you play that kind of team, they play hard. They keep the puck, chip it in and keep making the plays. Now when you're playing against them, it's a little different than playing with them. You sort of see how things go on."
•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.
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