An Andrew Shaw toe-drag. A Richard Panik wraparound. Artemi Panarin the enforcer. It seemed like it was opposite night at the United Center on Sunday. Struggling to gain some momentum for a playoff spot, the Blackhawks are reaching a “whatever-it-takes” level of desperation in March. And all they got out of it was one point.
The Hawks’ fourth line of Shaw, Panik and Andrew Desjardins provided the spark — buzzing like the more heralded first and second lines usually do — to rally the Hawks from a two-goal deficit into a tie game before the Minnesota Wild won 3-2 in a shootout on Charlie Coyle’s lone goal against Scott Darling. Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk stopped Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Panarin in the shootout.
The shootout loss left the Hawks (42-24-7, 91 points) four points behind the Dallas Stars (43-21-9, 95) and two points behind the St. Louis Blues (42-22-9, 93) with nine games left in the regular season for all three teams.
“It’s tough not to get that extra point,” Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. “It’s tough when you lose in a shootout. But I still think it’s a step in the right direction from the way we played before.
“We wanted to build off that game in Winnipeg [a 4-0 victory on Friday night]. I thought we did a lot of good things. But at the same time there’s still a ways that we can go to get where we want to be and where we need to be.”
The Hawks, who are 1-3-2 in their last six games, play the Stars on Tuesday night at the United Center. Their power play is in an 0-for-17 slump after failing to score on a four-minute double-minor taken by Zach Parise in the first 2:15 of the game. But Quenneville, like Keith, was reasonably encouraged by the performance against the Wild.
“At home, you’d like to win for sure. But we’ll take it,” Quenneville said. “You get a chance to get it to overtime — we had to keill a penalty, you get through it. you don’t mind getting to a shootout at that stage.
“I guess it was a pretty even game for the most part. We had a decent start. Good comeback in the last half of the second [when Shaw and Panik scored]. In the third they had a couple of decent looks and [Darling] made a couple of big saves. Good to see him play real strong again.”
Shaw and Panik scored pretty goals as the Hawks erased a 2-0 deficit in the second period after Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter (power play) scored for the Wild. Shaw’s toe-drag set up a wrist shot that got under Devan Dubnyk’s right arm. Panik, off a nice backhand feed from Andrew Desjardins, scored on his wraparound to tie the game at 6:39 of the second period. Shaw, Panik and Desjardins combined for 10 shots on goal.
“That line was good. That was our most dangerous line tonight,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
And it was Panarin of all people who supplied part of the grit. The rookie, responding to a Matt Dumba hit on Patrick Kane, grappled Dumba to the ground in the third period with the game tied at 2.
“I loved the response [by Panarin],” Quenneville said, “just like the crowd did.”
Kane went to the locker room for observation, returned quickly and finished the game. Panarin took the roughing penalty and the Hawks fended off the Wild power play — barely — as the game quickly took on a playoff tone. The Hawks also fended off a Wild power-play in overtime to get to the shootout. But the Hawks were 0-for-3 there — Dubnyk stopped Jonathan Toews; forced Kane’s backhand wide, then stopped Panarin for the win.
Darling, playing his third consecutive game overall — and second consecutive game for Corey Crawford, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, kept the Hawks in it with some outstanding saves on attempts from close range. He stopped 32-of-34 shots in regulation and overtime.
“He was great again tonight,” Keith said. “He made a lot of big saves, whether it was to keep the score tied or from getting higher than 2-0.”
Asked whether Crawford could play Tuesday against the Stars, Quenneville said, “We’ll see.”
The Stars, even without injured forward Tyler Seguin, figure to provide a stronger challenge than the Jets or the Wild. But Darling is gaining confidence.
“Obviously I wish it was different circumstances,” Darling said. “You don’t want Corey to be hurt. We miss him for sure. But I’m happy to be playing. It’s been good for me to get a little momentum going. Even though I’m 1-1-1 and I feel like I’ve played pretty well. It’s good going forward that I’ll have this experience.”