Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane lead the way as Blackhawks snap 8-game skid

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The Blackhawks celebrate Patrick Kane’s second-period goal Saturday night. (Getty Images)

The Blackhawks’ odds of making the playoffs had reached the statistical netherworld of “non-zero” by the time the puck dropped on Saturday —it wasn’t quite zero, but it rounded down to zero. In order to somehow climb into a playoff spot over the final 24 games of the season, the Hawks would need something ridiculous, like, say, a 21-0-3 run.

The Hawks have done that before. Of course, these Hawks aren’t the 2013 Hawks.

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For one badly needed feel-good evening, however, they at least looked like them.

Several individual Hawks broke out of slumps as the team collectively broke out of its eight-game losing streak in an emphatic and therapeutic 7-1 rout of the Washington Capitals. It surely won’t mean anything at the end of the season, but after weeks of misery, the largest crowd of the season (22,066) got to dance in the aisles to “Chelsea Dagger” over and over again and party like it was 2010, 2013, or 2015 again.

“This will be a little bit more fun today,” a smiling Jonathan Toews said as he met reporters, after weeks of futilely trying to explain everything that had gone wrong. “It’s a nice way to get over the hump.”

Toews had a goal and two assists, Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist (the 500th of his career), Brandon Saad had a goal and an assist, and Vinnie Hinostroza had two assists as the Hawks out-shot the Capitals 44-20. And for once, most of those shots were around the net, not easily stopped, unscreened attempts from the perimeter.

“Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it,” Joel Quenneville said. “The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way.”

For a moment, it looked like it might be more of the same old, miserable story. After Toews drew first blood on a fluky shot from the boards, the Capitals tied it on Tom Wilson’s redirect at 10:03 of the first period.

The Hawks had scored first in 10 of their previous 13 games, but won just two of them. And considering the Hawks had great starts in their last two games before crumbling in the third against Vegas and fumbling the game away in the second against Anaheim, it easily could have been a here-we-go feeling on the Hawks bench —the “deflating” that Kane had talked about during the losing skid.

“It’s almost happened too many times,” Kane said. “Let’s just keep playing loose. The crowd was into it tonight. They were awesome. And they’ve been really supportive through this time.”

And for once, the Hawks didn’t fall apart. Saad scored for the second straight game (after a 16-game drought), putting in a Toews rebound to make it 2-1, and Nick Schmaltz knocked in a Carl Dahlstrom rebound with 1.5 seconds left for a critical goal.

The wheels fell off for the Capitals late in the second, with the Hawks scoring three times in 2:07 to blow the game wide open. First, Toews made a terrific interception at the blue line to spring himself and Kane on a 2-on-0, and Kane put in Toews’ rebound. Seventy seconds later, Ryan Hartman roofed a backhander to snap his 18-game goal drought. And 57 seconds after that, Artem Anisimov scored a power-play goal for his second goal in 19 games.

Alex DeBrincat — one of the few guys who hasn’t been struggling lately — tacked on the extra point in the third period, scoring for the eighth time in 11 games.

One big game doesn’t erase everything that’s gone wrong over the past month. Nor does it create any real sense of hope for the final seven weeks of the season. But for one night, the Hawks finally captured that elusive “good feeling” they’ve been chasing for so long.

“It was fun, but that’s one,” Quenneville said. “Let’s see how we respond to this, because there’s a lot of hockey left.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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