Timing is everything.
The Chicago Blackhawks watched another two-goal lead evaporate thanks in part to their own errors and the deft shooting of Alex Semin. But just a few seconds after a deflating Carolina Hurricanes goal tied the game, Jonathan Toews was untying it and ultimately winning it.
Toews scored a short-handed goal just 31 seconds after Carolina tied the game, and Patrick Sharp scored his 30th goal of the season as the Blackhawks beat the Hurricanes 3-2 at the United Center on Friday night. The Blackhawks remain in fourth place in the Western Conference, four points behind first-place St. Louis (101 points). Chicago’s also three points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche who lost 2-0 to the Boston Bruins.
It wasn’t the prettiest game the Blackhawks have played, but they were missing a few bodies. Bryan Bickell, Brandon Saad (both upper body), Michal Rozsival (lower body) and, of course, Patrick Kane (lower left leg) were sidelined for this one. The Blackhawks had their sloppy moments and took way too many penalties.
“We played all right for the first part. We gave them excitement to their game at the end of the second,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We had a stretch of penalties and then Johnny scores a huge goal for us, which is very timely.”
But be it timely goals (Sharp’s to start, Toews’ to finish) and solid goaltending (Corey Crawford stopped 26 of 28), the Blackhawks prevailed. Crawford has won five of his last six starts.
“He was excellent,” Quenneville said of Crawford. “He had a strong game, one where he made a difference. Timely saves on the penalty kill, a couple all-alone looks, we’re happy with his effort. He looked big, quick and in control.”
Sharp got it started, scoring his first goal since the Stadium Series game on March 1. Up to that point Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin had been stalwart. Toews wasn’t surprised Sharp finally notched that 30th this season.
“He makes it look easy. It’s something we expect from him,” Toews said. “He’s a talented goal scorer, no doubt about it. It’s good to see him get to 30 tonight; he’s been trying to get it for a while. He’s been playing really well the last couple of games. Hopefully he keeps filling the net.”
Kris Versteeg potted his 11th of the season, a 4-on-4 goal that gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead at the time. But the Hurricanes weren’t done. The Blackhawks had a bad change and a turnover, and Semin cut Chicago’s lead to 2-1 with 37.7 seconds remaining in the second. Less than three minutes into the third, on a 5-on-3 power play, Semin scored again to tie it.
The tie lasted all of 31 seconds, however, before Toews scored his 28th of the season.
“If they score that’s the way it goes. You have to find a way to get the next one,” Toews said. “Myself, to get that break, I just saw the shot coming and that it might be rimming around the other side and I might be myself. It’s another game where I didn’t get a whole lot of chances and I didn’t create much, but it’s nice to take advantage of a chance like that.”
The Blackhawks certainly won’t put this performance up there like their Wednesday night outing vs. St. Louis. They did, however, battle through it.
“I think we’re just playing better,” Toews said. “We’re just focusing on the details how we have to, and maybe got away from it a few moments there in the second period when we coughed up that goal. But I think other than that, we’ve been playing really well, especially the last couple of games. That’s two team efforts we definitely need to build on, so I think we can be happy with that.”