A loss on Thursday probably wouldn’t have sent the Blackhawks into some sort of tailspin. For one thing, they completely dominated play, piling up the shots on goal, if not the shots in goal. For another, the Hawks are too experienced, too tested, to let a midseason swoon turn into a full-blown panic.
But trailing by a goal with barely two minutes left against yet another also-ran team — well, let’s just say it’s a good thing that Artem Anisimov tied it up with 2:04 left and Patrick Kane won it 56 seconds into overtime. The 4-3 win surely felt a lot better than a 3-2 loss would have. After all, the Hawks already had lost five of six entering the game, and not exactly against a murderer’s row of opponents.
“That could be a huge win for us,” Kane said. “You lose that one, maybe you start losing a little confidence.”
The slow-starting Hawks had what Joel Quenneville called maybe their best first period of the season, blitzing Buffalo with 20 shots on goal against only six. And they continued to control play, outshooting the Sabres 43-20 overall. But they still were chasing the lead all game.
After Marcus Foligno scored an early goal (the Sabres were being outshot 11-1 at the time), Ryan Hartman scored off a dazzling move around Taylor Fedun to tie it 1-1. After Kyle Okposo made it 2-1 on a power-play goal late in the second, Anisimov wheeled and fired through traffic for the equalizer just 18 seconds later. And after Jack Eichel scored on a power play just 70 seconds into the third, the Hawks kept clawing back until Anisimov followed up Kane’s backhander to tie it with 2:04 left in the game. Anisimov now leads the Hawks with 18 goals.
“He’s just a great hockey player,” Kane said. “He does everything right, plays both ends of the ice. I think people probably don’t see it a lot, but he’s so skilled. And you know when he gets those chances in front, he’s not going to miss them too often. Because he’s so patient, he’s skilled and he knows where to put the puck. He’s having a great season. I know he’s confident and it’s good to see out of him, because that’s a piece of the puzzle we were probably missing for a long time, that second-line center. And he’s probably filling it better than anyone ever could.”
Kane then scored the game-winner off a Jonathan Toews rebound after lingering on the ice a little longer than Quenneville initially wanted.
“Give him credit; he knows the game and the opportunities,” Quenneville said. “It was a great play.”
It was another mad scramble for a victory, but a victory nonetheless. And when you’ve dropped five of six, you take them any way you can get them.
“You’ve got to look at it in a positive way,” Hartman said. “We battle, and find a way to win.”