The Blackhawks keep talking about finding different ways to win.
They can go ahead and check the box for this category: Rally from an early deficit against the worst team in the NHL in a game in which both goaltenders get pulled in the first period and Alex DeBrincat rescues them with a hat trick.
All that and more happened at the United Center on Monday as the Hawks beat the Senators 8-7 in the NHL’s highest-scoring game of the season. Their wacky night got them within one point of the second wild-card spot, which is the closest they’ve been since launching their resurgence two months ago.
Coach Jeremy Colliton will take the points, but he looked like he was reeling from motion sickness after watching his team nearly cough up a three-goal lead in the third period. The Hawks fought off a six-on-four situation over the final 1:40 because the Senators were on a power play and got an extra skater by going empty net.
“Didn’t particularly enjoy it back there,” Colliton said. “Good news is we won when maybe we didn’t have our best effort.”
As for their defense in the final minutes, when Duncan Keith slapped away what likely would’ve been a game-tying goal, Colliton said, “We were desperate, and that urgency and desperation to defend probably would have put the game away earlier.”
This was a weird one from the onset. The Senators scored twice in the first three minutes, and Colliton yanked rookie goalie Collin Delia after he gave up another off a rebound to make it three goals on 10 shots less than eight minutes into the game.
The Senators followed suit when Dylan Strome slapped one past Anders Nilsson to make it 4-3 Hawks with about seven minutes left in the first period.
Cam Ward was hardly perfect, but stopping 24 of 28 shots qualified as lockdown goaltending in this one.
“It was a goalie’s nightmare,” he said. “I don’t think any kids in the stands probably signed up to be a goaltender tonight after watching that.”
There were occasional lulls, but the game never really settled down, and the Senators pulled within one on Thomas Chabot’s goal with five minutes left. The Hawks also took a 5-3 lead after the first 15 minutes before letting it slip back into a tie early in the second period.
There were too many goals to mention, but DeBrincat’s were tremendous. The Hawks’ playoff push is providing valuable high-pressure opportunities for their young players, and DeBrincat was man enough to handle those stakes.
“Pretty crazy game,” DeBrincat said. “It felt more like a summer hockey game with that high scoring. It’s good we got the win. That’s all that matters. Move on from here.”
DeBrincat scored the Hawks’ first two goals to even it out after falling behind 2-0 and snapped his third on a one-timer from Dylan Strome to wrap up the hat trick less than halfway through the game. It was the fourth of his career, an impressive feat for someone who hasn’t even finished his second season.
At 21, DeBrincat has been the Hawks’ best scorer other than Patrick Kane the last two seasons. He has 32 goals this season, and Kane added one — just one? — to push his total to 36.
Kane’s goal midway through the first period tied the game 3-3 and ran his point streak to 18 games, the longest streak in the league this season. With a goal and two assists against the Senators, he has 14 goals and 26 assists during that stretch.
The Hawks have won 9 of 11 and are one point behind the Wild, who have played one fewer game. They can reach .500 with a win Wednesday at Detroit. No matter how bizarre their path has been, that’s incredible for a team that was at the bottom of the league in December.