DALLAS — The Chicago Blackhawks have had a lot of comeback in them lately.
Down 1-0 entering the third period in Vancouver, they came back to win. Same with Calgary, where they trailed 2-0. On Friday night, they pulled off the rally trifecta.
Ben Smith got the shootout winner in the 11th round, and Corey Crawford was stellar in his 100th career victory as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Dallas Stars, 2-1, at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks have now won five in a row and top the Western Conference with 42 points, three ahead of the second-place San Jose Sharks.
Patrick Sharp scored his 10th goal of the season to tie it in the third. Crawford, whose early puck-handling mistake led to Dallas’ lone score, was stellar the rest of the way, stopping 28 of 29 through regulation and overtime and 10 shootout attempts. There was also a terrible moment: Stars veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas suffered a leg fracture when he went awkwardly into the boards in the second period. He was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital.
It was the third time in the past four games the Blackhawks came back to win after trailing entering the third period.
Smith, meanwhile, watched one teammate after another struggle to get a shootout attempt past Kari Lehtonen, who was strong in his own right. Most of the Blackhawks shot low, and against Lehtonen, that wasn’t getting them anywhere. So Smith took one high, and it proved victorious.
“I wanted to go, but I was hoping it didn’t get to that point,” Smith said. “I saw (Andrew) Shaw, and I was going to try that move but (Lehtonen) got him low glove there. So I just tried to get it up. Luckily it beat him over the glove and over the shoulder. To get that opportunity — after Crow made many big saves — and to bury that, it was nice.”
The Blackhawks had their sloppy moments in this one, their sixth game of their lengthy seven-game Circus Trip which ends Saturday in Phoenix. But much like they did in Vancouver and Calgary, they kept at it, locked things down defensively and took advantage of any offensive opportunities they got.
“We’ve had a few games like that lately where a team’s come out pretty hard at us, and I think to limit a team like that to one goal is good for us,” Jonathan Toews said. “It shows we’re playing responsibly. It shows we can pay that patient, smart game we’re looking to play. We’ve got confidence we can find a way to win late in games; good goaltending, smart defensive play and lot of confidence that we’re going to come back.”
The Blackhawks were a bit error prone in the first period while the Stars were a determined and aggressive bunch. They capitalized first, turning Crawford’s puck mishandling into a Rich Peverley goal for a 1-0 lead that would remain until the third period. But Crawford rebounded quickly from that, stymieing the Stars on every other attempt they had.
“He’s been great all season,” Toews said. “The other factor is we want to help him out and play smart defensively. We did that a little bit better. There were a few high-quality scoring chances their team got that are tough to avoid, but he was there every time. Whether it was paying for 60 minutes or the shootout, he was a big part of the win.”
Lehtonen was equally good for the Stars, stopping 25-of-26 in regulation and overtime in an entertaining goaltenders duel.
“It was a heck of a game; the pace was incredible,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The first period, they work hard and they keep pressure on you. We hung in there. Crow was rock solid and great in the shootout as well. It’s one of those game’s that’s tight. You had to do things quickly.”
And yet, patience won out for the Blackhawks. Sharp knocked down Duncan Keith’s shot for his 10th of the season to tie it at 1-1 7 minutes and 21 seconds into the third period. Then Smith wrapped things up in that very lengthy shootout.
The Blackhawks are finding ways to gut games out. You need that in an 82-game season, and especially on these long road trips. Pretty? Not really. But style points mean little. Two points mean a lot.
“The last two games probably haven’t been what we’ve wanted them to be in terms of full-game efforts, but to come out with two (points tonight) is huge,” Smith said. “Hopefully we keep it going in Phoenix and come up with two more.”