The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 2, 2014

Blackhawks hammer Pens

Chicago — The swirling snow and frigid conditions made it even more fun for Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Toews had two goals and an assist at a picturesque Soldier Field, and the Blackhawks beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 on Saturday night in the finale of the NHL Stadium Series.

Patrick Sharp scored in the first period and Patrick Kane set up Kris Versteeg’s 100th career goal in the second, helping Chicago to its first win since Feb. 5 at Anaheim. The reigning Stanley Cup champions dropped their final game before the Olympic break, and then lost 2-1 at the New York Rangers on Thursday night.

James Neal was credited with Pittsburgh’s only goal when Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook sent the puck into his own net at 6:21 of the third. Marc-Andre Fleury had 35 saves in the Penguins’ third straight loss, matching a season high.

The crowd of 62,921, dressed from head to toe in several layers, usually topped by their favorite jersey, roared when the Penguins and Blackhawks emerged from separate tunnels before the game. The players were greeted by rows of fireworks and shooting flames that sent clouds of smoke into the falling snow.

The flakes came down in waves for most of the first period, floating in circles in front of the upper deck before eventually descending. The small ice crew tried its best to keep up, but it was fighting an impossible battle, and inches of snow piled up on the surface between breaks in the action.

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith tried to play the puck forward at one point in the first, but only got part of it and it sledded to a stop a few feet away.

The winter wonderland made life difficult on the star-studded teams, full of Olympians and other All-Stars. It also provided a prime-time showcase for considerable skills of Toews, who teamed with Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby to lead Canada to the gold medal in the Sochi Games last weekend.

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