Oh, that power play. That thorn in the Chicago Blackhawks’ side, and one of the few thorns they’ve had to deal with at all this season.
But it was there, inefficient and frustrating all the same. The Blackhawks wanted to do something, anything on that power play before the postseason began. On Friday, they finally did.
Duncan Keith scored an early power-play goal, and Marian Hossa added a game-winning one 52 seconds into overtime as the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 5-4 at the United Center on Friday night. It was a “whew” kind of night for the Blackhawks, who hadn’t scored a power-play goal since Nick Leddy netted one against the Anaheim Ducks on March 29. So breaking through on two of their three power plays on Friday was a relief.
“It was a long time coming,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “When we did score (Keith’s) in the first period, we wondered when the last time was we scored. It seemed like it was a long, long time ago. So it was nice to get that off the back.”
Nashville left wing Rich Clune high-sticked Blackhawks forward Marcus Kruger in the chin late in regulation, leading to the double minor and, eventually, Hossa’s power-play goal. Hossa sensed tonight was the night they’d put the kibosh on their drought.
“In practice I had a good feeling something would change,” said Hossa, who scored his 17th goal of the season. “That’s what we’re going to need to score power-play goals. We had a few plays. We know we have to move the puck better and quicker and that changed. Two goals tonight definitely helps the confidence on the power play.”
Jonathan Toews said not putting pressure on themselves helped, too.
“When you get thinking too much, trying to force plays, nothing’s going to work your way,” he said. “We’re scoring a lot of goals 5 on 5. You put five good players together and let them just go out there and work hard, something’s going to happen. Obviously we changed our structure a little bit, but everyone was supporting each other, finding open ice, getting available and keeping the puck alive. Eventually you’ll get shots and pucks are going to go in. You saw that right off the bat tonight.”
“I think sometimes just a little bit of change can help,” he said. “Obviously we did a little bit of work yesterday (on the power play). But I think the key is using our skill and talent, not thinking too much about it and just going out and knowing we have one extra guy out there and make plays.”
Michal Handzus, who suffered a stinger after colliding with Viktor Stalberg in the second period – he left the game for a few minutes – scored his first goal since the Blackhawks acquired him on April 1. Patrick Kane scored his 21st of the season for the Blackhawks.
The power-play goals were bright spots on a night when the Blackhawks admittedly didn’t play their best. Corey Crawford had a so-so night himself, allowing four goals on 27 shots. Ray Emery was out tonight with a lower-body injury, and Quenneville said Emery’s out tomorrow against Phoenix as well. Asked if Carter Hutton, who was called up from Rockford earlier this week, could start, Quenneville said he and his staff haven’t discussed it yet.
Friday’s game was also another example of the Blackhawks finding a way to win, even after they’ve sewn up just about everything they can at this point. It’s not about the Presidents’ Trophy as much as it is staying sharp. Honing that power play with the rest of their game is definitely gravy.
“We didn’t play our best game; I don’t think they did either,” Toews said. “But we knew we had to play smart, keep going, and play with good habits and not get away from the way we play as a team too much. It’s nice to get another two points and keep our confidence as high as it can be.”