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Bickell Sparks Blackhawks’ 3-1 Win Over Maple Leafs

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CHICAGO (AP) –Bryan Bickell sparked Chicago’s big second period with his first goal of the season, helping the Blackhawks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 on Saturday night.

Brandon Pirri added a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks, who have won four of five. Michael Kostka scored his first career goal against his former team, and Corey Crawford had 19 saves.

Toronto center Dave Bolland was kept off the scoresheet in his first game in Chicago since he was traded to his hometown Maple Leafs in June. Bolland helped the Blackhawks win two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons and received a warm welcome from the sellout crowd.

Nazem Kadri scored his third goal for the Maple Leafs, who have dropped two in a row. Jonathan Bernier made 37 saves.

Bernier failed to grab a stopped shot in the second, and Bickell made the most of the opportunity. He skated around a prone Bernier before stuffing it into the net to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead at 5:32.

It was just the second point on the season for the 6-foot-4 Bickell, who is being counted on for more production after he got a big new contract during the summer.

Toronto tied it at 1 when Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya was unable to handle a loose puck and Joffrey Lupul made a slick pass to Kadri for the power-play score. But the Blackhawks turned up the pressure from there.

Kostka’s shot at 10:28 went off a screened Bernier and into the net in his second game with Chicago. The defenseman played 35 games for the Maple Leafs last season in his first year in the NHL.

Pirri then got a terrific pass from Brandon Saad and directed it past Bernier to make 3-1 with 3:11 remaining in the second. Pirri scored his first career goal in Chicago’s previous game, a 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis on Thursday.

Toronto had a chance to get back in the game in the third, but it failed to convert two power plays and went 1 for 5 with the man advantage for the game.

Bolland was drafted by Chicago in 2004 and played for the Blackhawks for parts of seven seasons, growing into one of the NHL’s biggest pests and gaining a reputation for his penchant for big goals.

Bolland had three goals and three assists when Chicago beat Philadelphia in six games to win the Stanley Cup in 2010. But his biggest play with the Blackhawks happened in his last game with the team, a memorable rebound goal at Boston that clinched another NHL title last summer.

“It feels a little different going in here,” Bolland said before the game. “Almost walking straight in, but it’s nice getting back here and it’s lots of fun.”

Bolland said he wasn’t sure what kind of reaction he would get from the crowd, but he was welcomed with a hearty round of applause when he was introduced for the ceremonial puck drop. The Blackhawks then paid tribute to the 27-year-old center with a video presentation during a break in the first period, and the crowd of 21,801 responded with a standing ovation.

Bolland stood in front of the Maple Leafs’ bench and waved as the fans cheered. He managed to keep a straight face, but seemed moved by the response.

NOTES: Leafs F James van Riemsdyk was back in the lineup after missing two straight games with back spasms. … The Blackhawks wore white warm-up jerseys with lavender lettering as part of “Hockey Fights Cancer Night,” and the coaches wore lavender ties. All the jerseys and ties will be autographed for an online auction benefiting the team’s charity organization and local cancer awareness organizations … Fs Trevor Smith, Carter Ashton and David Clarkson were scratched for the Maple Leafs. … Ds Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival and F Ben Smith were scratched for the Blackhawks.

(© 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)

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