Carolina's Darling gets better of Blackhawks

Updated 3/8/2018 11:14 PM
  • Goaltender Scott Darling makes a save on a shot by the Blackhawks' David Kampf during the second period on Thursday at the United Center.

    Goaltender Scott Darling makes a save on a shot by the Blackhawks' David Kampf during the second period on Thursday at the United Center. Associated Press

Scott Darling didn't shed a single tear during the national anthem.

Didn't well up even a little bit.

Instead, the Carolina Hurricanes goalie was on top of the world -- downright thrilled even -- to be back in the United Center on Thursday night playing against his former teammates and friends.

"I was back here not in a vindictive way," Darling said after making 22 saves in Carolina's 3-2 victory. "I was excited to be here and I've had nothing but great feelings towards the Hawks. It was great to be back … and have all my friends and family at the game.

"I'm really happy with the way the night ended."

As he should be. Darling won for the first time in a month thanks to Justin Williams' breakaway goal that tied the game at 2-2 just 66 seconds into the second period, and Sebastian Aho's game-winner 4:35 into the third.

The Hawks had taken a 2-1 lead on first-period goals by Tomas Jurco and Patrick Sharp, but coach Joel Quenneville's team was completely outclassed the rest of the way.

"We didn't play very well," Quenneville said.

Darling missed most of a tribute video that was played during the first period because Jurco had just scored on him.

"I know my family was happy to see it," Darling said.

Sharp's goal came nine minutes later when the Hawks' veteran pounced on a loose puck and flung it by Darling, who was laying on his back after making a save on a David Kampf shot.

"I'm sure I'm going to hear it from Sharpie for scoring on me," Darling said. "Guys (were) coming by during the play and saying hi to me. It's pretty funny.

"It was a great group and I miss the guys a lot."

The Hurricanes (30-27-11) kept pace with Florida and Columbus -- which both won -- and remain 4 behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild-card spot in the East. They outshot the Hawks 17-5 in the second period and 40-24 for the game.

"Every team we play, it seems like they need those points and they're valuable as ever," said Sharp, who now has 285 career goals. "But I think those games are important to us, as well. So we can be a lot better."

Rutta signs:

Defenseman Jan Rutta agreed to a one-year extension worth $2.25 million. Rutta, 27, leads all Hawks blue liners with 6 goals in 43 games.

"I'm really excited about being here another season," Rutta said.

There was a stretch early this season when Rutta and Gustav Forsling formed the Hawks' best defensive pairing. Both players fell on hard times, though, and struggled with their confidence. Rutta had a terrible game at Vancouver on Dec. 28, was scratched for the next four contests and then posted a minus-4 rating in a brutal 7-3 loss to the Islanders on Jan. 20.

He's only been in five games since -- mostly because of a lower-body injury -- but is back to being the player he was early on.

"It's a really long season … so the chances of having a bad game, it's pretty likely," Rutta said. "I think I was doing a good job mentally. I came back strong and that elevates your confidence a little bit more."

Slap shots:

The Hawks will honor Olympic gold medalists Kendall Coyne and Alex Rigsby at Sunday's game against Boston at the United Center. Coyne (Palos Heights) and Rigsby (Downers Grove) were members of the U.S. women's hockey team that defeated Canada in Pyeongchang. ... Joel Quenneville coached in his 1,607th game Thursday, tying him with Al Arbour for second-most all-time. … Thursday marked the 450th straight sellout at the United Center (including playoffs).

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