Darling makes NHL debut a winner for Blackhawks
Joel Quenneville couldn't help but smile when asked how Lemont native Scott Darling found out he would be making his NHL debut in goal Sunday night against Ottawa.
"I told him (Saturday) that he was starting, and I don't know if I surprised him with that one or not," Quenneville said before the game. "You get to play your first NHL game and it's in front of your home city and home fans, it's got to be a thrill of a lifetime for sure.
"There was no discussion when I told him. He was walking by me on the plane. I would've liked to have seen his face as he walked past me."
Guaranteed it would've had a big smile on it.
Just like the one Darling was sporting after stopping 32 of the 33 shots he faced to help the Hawks snap a two-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the Sens in a game that had a little bit of everything.
"I was a little bit terrified, a little excited," Darling admitted. "It was 20 years of work all coming into this one game.
"I tried to give off the illusion of calm, but I was pretty nervous out there."
It certainly didn't show, especially early on when the Senators came out firing. But the 25-year-old Darling, who became the first Hawks goalie to win in NHL debut since Ray LeBlanc in March 1992, had an answer for every shot.
"He played really well for us," said Brent Seabrook, whose power-play blast from the blue line in the second period proved the difference. "He looked good all night."
"Rock solid, excellent start to his NHL career," Quenneville said. "Real big game for him … and for us as well."
For the first time all season, the Hawks scored in the second period, and it began when Jonathan Toews beat former Hawk goalie Craig Anderson, another local boy (Park Ridge), on a nifty wraparound.
Patrick Kane notched an assist on Toews' goal for his 500th career point in 523 NHL games.
"It's pretty cool," Kane said. "It's what my job is for this team -- try and create scoring chances and put up numbers.
"Hopefully I can get even better as time goes on."
The Ottawa goal came in an interesting way while the Hawks were on the power play. With the puck in the Sens' zone, referee Steve Kozari got tangled up with Brad Richards, and Milan Michalek was the beneficiary, tying the game at 7:08 of the second.
But Seabrook's power-play blast at the 13:38 mark, his first goal of the season, proved the difference, ensuring a night to remember for a young goalie who grew up idolizing the Hawks.
"It doesn't seem real yet," said Darling, who had a personal cheering section of about 30 family members at the United Center. "It hasn't set in. I'll never forget this day."
• Follow Mike's Blackhawks reports on Twitter @dhspellman