CHICAGO -- During a timeout dense with apprehension late Tuesday, the Blackhawks discussed what the Capitals wanted to do on their pungent power play.
It is an important distinction that the Hawks did not discuss, more plainly, what in the world they were doing on the penalty kill all night.
The unit that asphyxiated so many man advantages a year ago was under siege in the season opener. But it was confidence and good fortune that elicited a kill when the Hawks badly needed one, the defending champions surviving an interminable two-men-down predicament to salvage a 6-4 win.
"We know what we can do," defenseman Johnny Oduya said. "Today maybe it was a little bit rusty. ... Even though we were good last year, we can take another step and be even better."
They were quite good last year, killing off 87.2 percent of penalties during the regular season and 90.8 percent in the playoffs. Then came three Capitals power-play goals in the opener, including two third-period tallies that threatened to crash the party at the United Center.
Granted, the Capitals had the league's No. 1 power play last season. This was also a Hawks team that went 11 games before it surrendered three power-play scores last season, a club that went 30-for-30 in killing penalties to start the Stanley Cup run.
"They move it around pretty quick," goalie Corey Crawford said. "Maybe (we were) a little bit too patient, but it's kind of hard when they have so many options. I didn't think we were doing too bad. But we were able to get our pressure and some great blocks by (defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson) at the end there and just get our sticks in the lane."
That was the test with roughly 3 1/2 minutes to go, holding a one-goal lead as the Capitals began a 5-on-3 for 86 seconds.
But the Hawks did enough lane-clogging and Crawford made enough timely stops -- including a point-blank stuff of the Capitals' Eric Fehr -- to emerge unscathed.
"It was a pretty interesting spot we put ourselves in," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We avoided what could have been a disaster. Crow made some big stops and we got through it."
Maybe no team soon will produce a power-play fusillade like the Capitals. But the Hawks won't take any chances with surrendering chances like this.
"Our PK wasn't good enough tonight," winger Marian Hossa said. "The good thing is that we have lots of time to fix it."
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