Daniel Carcillo’s road back to the Blackhawks’ lineup was a long one. A season-ending knee injury/surgery last January, a knee injury in this year’s season opener, then waiting to get another chance to crack this Chicago Blackhawks roster during their crazy undefeated streak.
So his goal with less than a minute remaining in regulation, the one that extended that undefeated streak, was that much sweeter.
Carcillo scored his first goal of the season with 49.3 seconds remaining in the game, and Ray Emery improved to 10-0-0 as the Blackhawks beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 at the United Center on Wednesday. It was another day, another way for the Blackhawks, who have reached the midway point of their season with no regulation losses (21-0-3). Their 30-game undefeated streak, which dates back to last season, is just five shy of tying the Philadelphia Flyers’ mark of 35 in a row.
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Jonathan Toews had a momentum-changing shorthanded goal just 2:19 into the third period for the Blackhawks, who now have won 11 consecutive games. The Blackhawks have worked magic in different ways throughout this streak. But considering who they lost just before – and during – Wednesday’s game, it was that much more impressive.
Marian Hossa was a last-minute scratch with an upper-body injury. Andrew Shaw took a Paul Stastny elbow to the face in the second period and didn’t return for the third. Patrick Sharp was pinned along the boards by Ryan O’Byrne early in the third and, hunched over, skated straight for the locker room.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Hossa was “close to playing tonight,” and will hopefully be ready for the Blackhawks’ tilt in Colorado on Friday. He didn’t think Shaw was too serious. But Sharp, whose shoulder looked like it took the brunt of that hit, may miss some time, Quenneville said. Both Shaw and Sharp will be reevaluated on Thursday. Asked if Sharp’s injury could be season ending, Quenneville said, “I don’t think so.”
So with players getting injured, the answer came from a guy who went through two knee injuries that kept him sidelined most of the last year. Carcillo, who backhanded the rebound off a Viktor Stalberg attempt with less than a minute remaining in regulation, said it meant a lot.
“I still don’t feel 100 percent out there. Body-wise I am, but mentally getting back into the game after missing almost 14 months, it’s hard,” Carcillo said. “I’m still getting back into the swing of things. It’s nice to get rewarded, because it’s been a long, hard road, that’s for sure.”
Toews was happy for the feisty forward, who started tonight’s game on the top line in Hossa’s absence.
“You can be working for a long time coming back from an injury, and when you don’t see any results or breakthroughs, it can be a frustrating thing. But Carbomb’s been working hard,” Toews said. “A goal like that, I’m sure, feels pretty good.”
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Defenseman Brent Seabrook, who had five of the Blackhawks’ 32 hits, said the team kept up with the Avs.
“They have a lot of speed and they challenge us with their speed a lot,” he said. “It’s nice to come out with a good effort. We managed their speed well and kept our speed going.”
The Avalanche were just the fourth team to lead the Blackhawks after two periods; Matt Duchene’s goal gave them a 2-1 advantage. And when the Avs got a power play early in the third period, it was their chance to extend that.
But Toews answered, dancing around Ryan O’Reilly and caroming his shot off the post and past Semyon Varlamov to tie it 2-2.
“That one reminded me of Johnny’s shorty up in Vamcouver in Game 7,” Quenneville said of Toews’ heroics two Aprils ago. “(Short-handed goals) can be a big boost for your team and deflating for the opponent. When you get scored on your power play, it hurts.”
The Blackhawks inflicted their final damage in the final minute. It’s been a long, productive road for the Blackhawks. It’s been a long, frustrating one for Carcillo. On Wednesday, Carcillo got to add to the Blackhawks’ fun.
“Carbomb’s been working his tail off,” Quenneville said. “Starting off well and then having to get back to the grind of trying to rehab yourself, conditioning-wise, it’s a pain. It’s not fun. Today he got more minutes. He was responsible in his game. He was patient at times and still physical. It’s nice to see him score. I’m sure he’s excited, like we all are.”