Coming off an emotional victory over the Blues in which they lost leading scorer Patrick Kane for the rest of the regular season — and playing without injured forwards Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell — the Blackhawks were happy to take their two points and move on Friday night.
They took too six penalties and lost a two-goal lead against the Carolina Hurricanes, but made the most of a tough night as Jonathan Toews scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway early in the third period for a 3-2 victory before 21,857 fans at the United Center.
Patrick Sharp scored his 30th goal of the season and Kris Versteeg also scored as the Blackhawks (41-15-15, 97 points) moved three points ahead of the Avalanche (44-21-6, 94 points), who lost to the Bruins 2-0 at home Friday night. The Hawks trail the Central Division-leading Blues by four points.
‘‘I just think we’re playing better,’’ said Toews, who scored his 28th goal of the season 31 seconds after the Hurricanes’ Alexander Semin scored on a 5-on-3 advantage to tie the game 2-2. ‘‘Maybe got away from it for a few moments in the second period when we coughed up that goal. Other than that, we’ve been playing really well, especially in the last couple of games. That’s two team efforts we definitely need to build on. So we can be happy with that.’’
Coach Joel Quenneville said Saad and Bickell could return on Sunday against the Predators at the United Center, but didn’t sound all that optimistic. The Hawks, though, have a knack for overcoming adversity.
‘‘We’ve been lucky to be really healthy all season. I hope that continues,’’ Toews said. ‘‘You need to learn to play without some of your best players. We’ve done it with Hoss [Marian Hossa]. Now Sodder and Kaner. It doesn’t matter. If someone’s nursing something we need to find a way to fill that void. Other guys are going ot have to step up and that’s what we’re looking for.’’
The Hawks scored on two well-executed pass plays to take a 2-0 lead. Sharp scored on a breakaway off a center-ice feed from Andrew Shaw for a 1-0 lead 3:09 into the second period. Nick Leddy fed Versteeg for a wrist shot from the slot to make it 2-0 with 3:34 left in the period.
Sharp has scored 30 or more goals in four of his last six full seasons with the Blackhawks.
‘‘He makes it look easy. It’s something we’ve come to expect from him,’’ Toews said. ‘‘He’s a talented goal-scorere, no doubt about it. It’s great to see him get the 30th. I think he’s been trying to get that 30th for awhile. It’s nice to see one go in. He’s been playing really well the last couple of games, so hopefully he keeps filling the net going into the end of the season.’’
But Semin scored off a bad Hawks change with 38 seconds left in the period and tied it early in the third on the 5-on-3.
‘‘We played all right for the first part,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘We gave them some excitement to their game at the end of the second [period]. That’s a goal we have to be smarter about and don’t give the team a chance to get back in the game. We took six penalties, which got them right back in the game, and Johnny scored a huge goal for us, which was very timely.’’
Toews’ made the difference when he alertly retrieved a shot by Eric Staal that bounded around the boards and fortuitously caromed right to him at the blue line for a breakaway. He beat Anton Khudobin with a backhand for the tie-breaking goal.
It was the best of a tough night for Toews, who took two penalties and won 3-of-13 faceoffs in the first two periods. But he often finds himself at the right place at the right time.
‘‘They scored to tie it up — that’s the way it goes,’’ Toews said. ‘‘You just have to find a way to get the next one. To get that break — I just saw the shot coming that might be rimming around the other side and ended up being by myself all the way down the ice. It was one of those games where I didn’t get a whole lot of chances and didn’t create much. But I was able to take advantage of one chance like that.’’
Despite all the injuries, the uncanniness of Toews continues to be a good trump card to have.
‘‘He’s one of those players, he anticipates well,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He knew it was wide of the net, it was off the glass. He got a funny bounce and he took off at the right time, knowing the puck wasn’t going to be sustained in the zone. He beat the guy off the rush and made a nice move. It was obviously a huge goal for us.’’
Kane return: Playoff opener
General manager Stan Bowman said Kane’s injury ‘‘thankfully was not too serious’’ and he expects Kane to be ready to go for the playoffs, which are scheduled to begin April 16.
Kane technically will be eligible for the final regular-season game April 12 against the Nashville Predators, but Bowman made it clear he would not play until the playoff opener.