Three goals in 34 seconds fuels Blackhawks’ comeback over Avalanche

Three goals in 34 seconds fuels Blackhawks’ comeback over Avalanche

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.”

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

The Blackhawks' season ended much sooner than expected after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

But for some players, their hockey season may not be finished yet.

The IIHF World Championships begin May 5, and an early postseason exit gives several Blackhawks an opportunity to play in the tournament.

With the National Hockey League saying it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, players may be more inclined to join given the uncertainty of when they'll be able to represent their countries again — if ever, for some.

Here's an update on which Blackhawks players could be participating:

— Patrick Kane said Saturday he's taking the weekend to mull over Team USA's offer, and will make a final decision in the next "day or two."

— Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each declined their invites from Team Canada, electing to use a lengthy offseason to recharge and focus on training for the 2017-18 NHL season.

— Corey Crawford and Nick Schmaltz said they have not been contacted by their respective countries, but both said they would consider going if they are.

— Artemi Panarin has reportedly already accepted Team Russia's offer to play.

— Niklas Hjalmarsson said he's "thinking about" Team Sweden's offer after the NHL's decision not to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Who knows when I'll ever get a chance to play for my country again, so that might be factor," he said.

— Marcus Kruger said he's talking with Team Sweden officials, and has expressed interest in going.

— Marian Hossa said he informed Team Slovakia that he will not be playing: "Let the young guys play."

— Richard Panik will not be participating either, saying he doesn't want to risk injury as he seeks a new contract.

Jonathan Toews will make 'little changes' to offseason prep

Jonathan Toews will make 'little changes' to offseason prep

Jonathan Toews gave a succinct "no" when asked if he'd consider playing in the World Championships next month in Europe. For the Blackhawks captain, his 2016-17 season wasn't where it needed to be.

So instead of helping Team Canada across the pond, he'll prepare to help the Blackhawks more next season.

Toews will use this offseason in a variety of ways, including taking some time completely off to heal and rest. And while there's a lot of time between now and the Blackhawks' training camp, Toews said competing in the World Championships would take up a good amount of time he'd rather use to be ready for the fall.

"At this point of my career, going through the last couple of years the way things have played out, there are some little changes here and there with how I approach my preparation, especially the last summer being a long offseason and coming in feeling I was as prepared as I could be and still not getting to the level of play I wanted to this season," Toews said on Saturday. "There are some things I have to re-evaluate and think about this offseason. There's no satisfaction there but definitely take a different approach with how I prepare for next season. I didn't get to the level I needed to be to help our team survive a little bit longer in this last series, so I have to be responsible for that as well. Just look back, assess and see what you can do differently."

Toews had a slow start to the season and then missed three weeks with a reported back injury. Much like the rest of the Blackhawks he started heating up in February and finished the regular season with 21 goals. But it was another quiet postseason for him, as Toews had just one goal in the four games against the Nashville Predators, and that was a late-regulation power-play goal in Game 4.

So was Toews dealing with a physical issue? Asked how healthy he was, Toews said, "well, that's kind of one of the things I'm hitting on," but didn't get more specific than that. Coach Joel Quenneville said some of the Blackhawks' key players, "have some issues they're taking care of, but I don't think it's going to be to that extent to where it's long term care." Quenneville also said any health issues had nothing to do with what happened in this series. Toews certainly wasn't using it as an excuse, either. As for the future, Toews said he'll reconfigure his workout, training regimen, whatever necessary to be better next season.

"Just the way the speed of the game has changed the last few years. I've always been the type of player who likes to play heavy and protect the puck in the corners. It seems the strength has been a factor but also the speed in my game that I used to have in my younger years," Toews said. "I have to get back to playing more puck possession, more speed on the rush. That right there is one little thing. But I think the skill part is another thing I'll have to focus on and trying to get back to playing the way I can."