John Hayden has watched the Blackhawks the past few years. He’s seen the victories, be it those that were strong from the start or the comebacks. But seeing them from afar was nothing compared to being part of one.
“That was pretty special. For me, I learned a lot about this locker room,” said Hayden. “Obviously I’ve seen it but to be a part of it is pretty cool. Tremendous leadership group here.”
That leadership group and the Blackhawks as a whole, turned what was a 50-minute snoozer on their part to an impressive 10-minute comeback.
Patrick Kane scored his 32nd goal of the season and the Blackhawks scored five unanswered goals in the third period to beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-3. The Blackhawks went ballistic in the final period, scoring four goals in 3:02, including three in 34 seconds, to turn a forgettable game into an unforgettable third.
The Blackhawks, thanks to the Calgary Flames' 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, clinched a playoff berth for the ninth consecutive season. They are now seven points ahead of the Minnesota Wild, who lost 5-4 to Winnipeg on Sunday. The Blackhawks have had comebacks before and had some talks in the second intermission prior to the third. The talks, some of which revolved around the Blackhawks shooting more and ridding themselves of the fancy stuff, worked.
Jonathan Toews redirected a Duncan Keith shot midway through the third period to cut it to 3-2 at 10:17. The Avalanche challenged for offside and, despite it appearing to be that, officials said the review was inconclusive and the original good-goal call stood. According to the NHL’s Situation Room:
Review was not conclusive in determining whether Toews tagged up at the instant the puck was on Richard Panik’s stick when Chicago entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 78.7, “If a review is not conclusive and/or there is any doubt whatsoever as to whether the call on the ice was correct, the On-Ice Official(s) will be instructed to confirm their original call.”
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Coach Joel Quenneville said it was a good call, comparing it to the challenge that erased a Blackhawks goal on Feb. 8 against Minnesota.
“I thought it was the right call,” Quenneville said. “It doesn’t trigger the offside until he touches the puck and Jonny gets his skate back on time, right at probably the same time as we touch it. You could say it was a tie. That’s the Minnesota play.”
Richard Panik and Artemi Panarin followed with quick goals of their own, giving the Blackhawks three goals in 34 seconds. Toews added his second 3:02 after he scored his first for a 5-3 Blackhawks advantage. Hayden, playing in his third pro game, had primary assists on Toews’ first goal and Panik’s tally.
The Blackhawks’ third period was a 180 from their first two. Listless, sloppy and playing uninspired hockey, through those first 40 minutes the Blackhawks were no match for an Avs team with nothing to lose. Entering the third the Blackhawks, who were playing too cute at times, knew they had to change things.
“Our focus was, we’ve gotta shoot more. We had grade-A chances and we just passed the opportunities,” Panik said. “We were just talking about shooting more.”
It was also about creating traffic and second chances, which the Blackhawks finally did. Marcus Kruger capped the comeback with his empty-net goal with 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Blackhawks may not be playing the dominant hockey they were through most of February. They’ve had their hiccups, their slow moments as they did against the Avs. But their ability to find ways to win has been there for a few seasons now, and they showed that again on Sunday.
“We’ve been in a lot of tight games lately where offense has been hard to come by, and it looked like the same thing for 40 minutes tonight,” Toews said. “Good to get a few bounces. No doubt it gets the crowd into it, energizes your team, so it made a huge difference for us tonight.”