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Hossa happy to toss some weight off his back

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CHICAGO -- Finally.

That one word defined the look on
Marian Hossa's face after he scored his first goal in nine games to break a scoreless tie with 2:51 left in the second period Monday night. The goal helped lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 2-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final -- and get a year's worth of baggage off Hossa's back.

At first, it was your typical celebration. After chipping a rebound over Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton, Hossa went into a crouch and let out a primal scream that has been released by thousands of hockey players during their careers.

But then Hossa slowly glided away from the net and let out an even bigger exhale while looking to the rafters. He had the appearance of a man who had just received word that he was misdiagnosed and didn't have just two weeks to live.

Hossa summed it up in one word after the game.


"It's been a long time," said Hossa, whose last goal came 26 days ago. "I was looking for some ugly goal like that to get the offense going."

The 31-year-old, who has scored 363 regular-season goals, called his third of this postseason a "garbage goal," but it's one he may treasure forever after the nightmare of a Stanley Cup Final he had last year.

Hossa not only had the burden of eight playoff games without a goal hanging over him, but the weight of eight Stanley Cup Final games without a goal resting on his shoulders too. As a member of the Red Wings last season, Hossa was held scoreless in seven Final contests in a series Detroit would lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

To his credit, he took some blame last year and never made excuses for his lack of scoring this year. The Blackhawks haven't missed a beat during his scoring slump, but Hossa knew he'd have to rediscover his scoring touch at some point in order to make a difference.

On Monday, it finally happened.

"It bugged me, definitely, not scoring goals," Hossa said. "I tried not to get frustrated, but it's in your head."

While Hossa hasn't been scoring, he's been creating offense without lapsing on his defensive responsibilities. He has 11 assists in 18 games and has been a force on a penalty-killing unit that ranks third (85.1 percent) in the playoffs.

But when you sign a $63 million contract, a few assists and some solid backchecking during the playoffs just aren’t going to cut it. Hossa knew it, and his teammates are glad he finally got that elusive goal.

"It's nice," said
Patrick Sharp, who centers Hossa and assisted on his goal Monday. "He can stop answering all those questions now. He does so much out there in all areas. He's a huge part of our team. He did what he does best tonight by putting the puck in the net.

"He's so composed out there, strong on the puck. As a centerman, I just kind of throw it over to his side and he always comes up with it. He's playing his best hockey the last two games."

"That's a guy that just works his butt off every single game, every shift," defenseman
Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "It's nice to see him score a goal there."

Now that Hossa knows he won't relive last year's goal-less Final, he needs to make sure he doesn't re-live the letdown of giving up a 2-0 series lead. The Red Wings won both games at home to start last year's Final, but the Penguins won four of the next five to steal the series and the Cup.

The lesson isn't loss on Hossa.

"I don't go way in the past, but it's the same situation," Hossa said. "Everybody knows how good things we've got going on right now, winning both games at home. It's really great for the confidence and really good for momentum.

"Right now, going into their building, it's going to be really important how we start out Game 3. And that's going to be one of the most important games we play this year."

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