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updated: 5/4/2014 8:57 PM

Saad can smile after snapping 19-game scoring drought

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  • The Hawks' Brandon Saad celebrates his first goal of the playoffs Sunday against the Wild in the second period at the United Center. Saad added an empty-net goal in the third period.

      The Hawks' Brandon Saad celebrates his first goal of the playoffs Sunday against the Wild in the second period at the United Center. Saad added an empty-net goal in the third period.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
By Brian Hedger
Special to the Daily Herald

It had been a long time since Brandon Saad had watched the puck hit the back of the net with one of his own shots.

So, the look of relief on his face after he scored late in the second period Sunday afternoon at United Center was understandable.

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"You always want to help produce and make plays and score goals, so that definitely felt good," said Saad, who hadn't scored in 19 straight games dating back to the regular season. "It was huge.

"It's easy to talk about not scoring and to keep battling through it, but to get one in, it feels good. You've got to keep rolling now."

Saad, who added an empty netter in the final minutes, also has 5 assists in the playoffs to date.

"I keep telling him every night he's a monster with that puck," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said of Saad, who played with Toews on the top line for most of the 2013-14 regular season. "When he's on his game, he keeps his feet moving through traffic and he's slippery.

"For his size and power, he's able to somehow get around guys and keep the puck on his stick."

That's exactly what led to Saad's first goal.

Toward the end of a power play late in the second period, Saad threw a diagonal pass through traffic in the slot to Bryan Bickell near the left circle. Bickell couldn't handle it, but he collected the puck and sent it back to Saad.

The Hawks' 21-year-old power forward did the rest.

Saad carried the puck toward the slot and fired a wrist shot from the high slot that hit the Wild's Zach Parise and started to flutter. Minnesota goalie Ilya Bryzgalov didn't see it through four teammates in front of him and the puck hit the net in the top left corner for a 2-0 lead.

It was an even-strength goal only because Justin Fontaine got out of the penalty box a second earlier, but it was great example of what has made Saad such a big part of the Hawks' postseason.

Undeterred by his goal drought, Saad has made positive things happen since the playoffs started. Combined with some struggles during the 2013 postseason and being benched April 6 against the St. Louis Blues as a wake-up call, Saad has again become a vital part of the Blackhawks' success.

"Going through the experiences last year and a full season this year in the NHL, I knew coming into the playoffs I had experience and I had confidence," he said. "I wanted to play well in the playoffs. So far, it's been good and I just keep looking to get better."

Getting a couple goals never hurts.

"He's making some great plays," Toews said. "I think when he plays like that, he's opening up room for everyone else. I think that's why he's had so many (assists) so far, but it's nice to see him get on the board. To see one go in is a good feeling for anybody."

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