Artem Anisimov wins it in OT as Blackhawks rally past Devils

SHARE Artem Anisimov wins it in OT as Blackhawks rally past Devils
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Michal Kempny checks New Jersey’s Beau Bennett into the glass during the second period at the Prudential Center Friday night. (Getty Images)

NEWARK, N.J. —After the warmup laps and the line rushes and the shooting session, a typical morning skate devolves into guys doing their own thing for a few minutes. The defensemen work on receiving passes while backpedaling, and forwards scatter to work on faceoffs or stick-handling. Some guys just idly chat along the benches before filtering back into the dressing room.

But Friday morning at the Prudential Center, the Blackhawks held a full-blown special-teams practice session, with penalty-killing units going up against power-play groupings at either end of the ice. This, after the Hawks spent consecutive days off the ice. Joel Quenneville is trying anything to snap his team out of its early season mediocrity.

“We try different things over the course of the season,” Quenneville said. “And we don’t like the way we began the season here.”

Friday night’s 3-2 overtime victory over the New Jersey Devils wasn’t a heck of a lot different, but there were certainly signs of progress. The Hawks, as has been their habit, waited until the third period to get going, scrambling their way to overtime on Marian Hossa’s power-play goal with 2:11 left, and winning it on Artem Anisimov’s goal in the extra session. But they did kill three straight penalties to close the game. They did score two power-play goals, including Hossa’s at the tail end of a four-minute power play, with Corey Crawford on the bench for an extra attacker.

It’s the third straight game the Hawks rallied in the third period to get to overtime.

“We found a way to win this one,” Crawford said. “You can feel we’re starting to play better hockey, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. … We’re doing a good job of [not getting frustrated early], and sticking to our game and not letting things bother us. We have a lot of skill and we’re going to get our chances throughout the game. We [need to] not get down or get too pissed off. We’ve just got to keep playing.”

But before the late heroics, the Hawks gave up another power-play goal. They were once again heavily outshot in the first two periods (28-12); they’ve now been outshot in seven of eight first periods this season, and have given up 10 or more shots on goal in 13 of 24 periods. And once again, Crawford (30 saves) was the primary reason the Hawks were even in the game long enough for Hossa to tie it.

Quenneville said the last two games have been Crawford’s best.

“He’s huge,” Anisimov said. “He’s always big for us. He makes saves when we need him to. He just played another great game.”

The penalty-killing woes continue to be the dominant theme of the season, and until the Hawks kill a bunch of penalties in a row, they won’t be able to kill the narrative. The Devils took a 1-0 lead at 15:32 of the first period when P.A. Parenteau put in a Devante Smith-Pelly rebound. On the plus side, it took them a minute and 49 seconds to score — for the beleaguered Hawks’ PK, that almost counts as progress.

For nearly a minute of that time, the Devils’ second power-play unit looked like a hockey version of the Keystone Cops —breaking sticks, whiffing on one-timers, and nearly falling over their own skates. Yet they still wound up scoring. That’s just how it’s been for the Hawks, which, at that point, had given up 15 goals on 27 opposing power plays, a percentage so staggeringly bad that it almost has to be a fluke. They killed three in a row after that, reaching the 50-percent mark. A good PK is in the mid 80s.

“We seem to be getting comfortable, settling into place and knowing our roles and knowing what we’ve got to do, and just working at it, and not maybe overdoing it or getting out of position,” said Jonathan Toews, who set us Hossa’s equalizer with a strong play at the net. “Sometimes it’s working hard, but it’s working smart and having that confidence that we’re going to get pucks out and kill time. A couple of big penalty kills later in the game, and a big power-play goal. That’s what we needed tonight.”

The Hawks returned the favor in the second period, as Artemi Panarin sniped a goal past Keith Kinkaid — heavily screened by Anisimov —just 13 seconds into a power play to tie the game 1-1. Crawford did much of the heavy lifting for the rest of the period, twice making big stops on Taylor Hall and quickly cutting across the crease to stop a Beau Bennett rebound chance.

But Winnetka native and New Trier product John Moore scored at 4:06 of the third. The score stayed that way — with the Hawks killing off another penalty —until Hossa tied it up and Anisimov won it.

And despite all their faults, thanks to some timely late goals and Crawford’s terrific play in net, the Hawks are a respectable 4-3-1 on the season.

“It was a huge win,” Quenneville said. “We’ve had a couple of wins like that. But we still need better in between.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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