CHICAGO | The return of Marian Hossa helped the Blackhawks on Sunday night — as coach Joel Quenneville put his waffling champions under a microscope to demand better effort and concentration.
The combination was more than enough to snap a two-game losing streak — part of an even longer Hawks sub-par stretch of play that has aggravated Quenneville — with a 4-1 victory over the injury-riddled Detroit Red Wings.
Quenneville was happier watching a refreshed and healthy Hossa, who had been out since suffering an upper-body injury against the Penguins in the outdoor game at Soldier Field March 1.
Early in the third period, Hossa charged in with a power move from the right side, went one-on-one against Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and collected his 25th goal to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead.
One period earlier, Hossa assisted on Nick Leddy’s power-play play goal that opened the scoring. Gustav Nyquist added his own power-play tally 6½ minutes later.
Hossa also stole the puck and fed Jonathan Toews for a short-handed insurance goal with just more than two minutes to go in the game.
“I’m glad I can help a little bit,” Hossa said. “It was a little shaky beginning, but we stuck with the system.”
The Hawks experience a different vibe with Hossa’s all-around game on the ice.
“He changes the look and the complexion of the line and of our team game,” Quenneville said. “We seem to have the puck a lot more when he’s out there. He made some nice finishing plays. ... He made a big difference tonight.”
“He was unbelievable,” Leddy said. “Everything he touched had something special.”
Ben Smith tallied the goal that put the Hawks in front for good at 2-1 with 14 seconds to go in the second.
To combat the recent malaise, Quenneville shook up the lines for the Red Wings.
Kris Versteeg was promoted to the top line with Hossa and Jonathan Toews. Bryan Bickell was moved up to second line with Patrick Kane and center Michael Handzus and the coldest Hawks scorer, Patrick Sharp was dropped to third line with Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad. The latter left the game after the second period with an upper-body injury that Quenneville did not believe was serious.
Overall, the Hawks have been a different team since New Year’s, with the Olympic break factored in. Going into Sunday, they were 10-8-8 since Jan. 1, with seven overtime or shootout losses alone in January.
The Hawks also scored two goals or less in eight of the 11 games going into Sunday. Sharp had just one goal in that stretch.
So far in 2014, the St. Louis Blues leapfrogged the Hawks and are seven points ahead in first in the Central Division. Meanwhile, the young, fast and eager Patrick Roy coached-Colorado Avalanche have taken over second place with home-ice playoff advantage at stake.
Quenneville held a rigorous practice Saturday while expressing displeasure over recent efforts. He apparently enjoyed the cause-and-effect result against the rival Red Wings, making their only United Center appearance this season.
“I liked their game,” Quenneville said. “It was a tight game. That’s how it is against (the Red Wings). I thought we played the right way. We were stronger with more intensity in the puck areas.”