The Blackhawks needed to sweep a three-game homestand against second-division opponents in the worst way — and that’s just about how they did it.
After scrapping for third-period goals to beat the last-place Sabres and Coyotes, the Hawks used the same forumula to beat the fifth-place Panthers on Tuesday night. Jonathan Toews got the tying goal with 6:02 left in regulation, and Patrick Kane scored in overtime for a 3-2 victory before 21,795 at the United Center.
Brandon Saad and Toews each had a goal and an assist, rookie Alex DeBrincat added two assists to give him 16 points in his last 15 games and Corey Crawford stopped 35 of 37 shots to give the Hawks (15-11-5) at least a semblance of momentum heading to Winnipeg for a game Thursday night against the Jets.
If not momentum, at least six big points for a team still on the fringe of the playoff picture.
“Those three games are must-win games, so it was nice to play well late and find ways to win games maybe if we don’t play our best hockey,” Toews said. “I think it gives us confidence that we can find some ways to score late goals. Offensively, we found ways to capitalize. There’s a lot of things we can improve on, but good to get those two points at home.”
Though it wasn’t a work of art, the Hawks’ key players made the difference. Saad gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead at 16:49 of the first period when he scored off a nifty pass by DeBrincat from behind the net. After Nick Bjugstad beat Crawford with a backhand on a breakaway in the second period and Jamie McGinn scored early in the third period to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead, Toews scored from the left side off a pass across the slot from Saad to tie it at 13:58.
Aaron Ekblad had two golden opportunities in overtime — hitting the crossbar on one —before Artem Anisimov created a turnover and fed Kane for a mini-breakaway and the game-winner.
“Great play stripping the guy; I just kind of took off when I saw he had the puck,” said Kane, who has 11 goals and 30 points. “He made a nice play, put it on my tape. I just had to skate into it [and] pick a corner.”
The two points matter most to the struggling Hawks. The Panthers were playing their second of a back-to-back, with backup goalie James Reimer playing his fourth game in six nights because of an injury to Roberto Luongo. But a win is a win at this point.
“You want to lead games,” Saad said. “But for us to be able to battle back … it shows a lot of character for us to stick with the game, doing the right things, and the pucks will go in for us.”
But Toews, Kane and coach Joel Quenneville know the Hawks need to start playing well besides getting two points.
“Some areas [were better], not in the second period. That wasn’t good enough,” Quenneville said. “Crow kept us in the game. We gave up high-quality stuff, and here we are still 2-1 and finding a way to get back into it in the third. Every game’s different, but we weren’t happy with how we were playing, but there were still some good things.”
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