With nothing at stake, the Blackhawks suddenly looked pretty good.
They caused some trouble for the rival Blues with a spirited performance to beat them 4-3 in a shootout on Wednesday. While the Hawks were eliminated from the playoff race the night before, the Blues are battling for the Central Division.
Causing havoc for teams in the playoff race will be part of the fun for the Hawks in their final week. They host the Stars on Friday and travel to the Predators on Saturday, and both of those teams might need a win for playoff positioning.
The Blues could have pulled into a tie with the Predators and Jets for the division lead. Instead, they are one point out with two games remaining.
Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton appreciated the effort despite his players’ disappointment over being eliminated.
“We handled it well,” he said. “We can’t discount that. For sure, it’s difficult. But at the same time we’ve got great fans, it’s a full building and it’s [an opponent] that’s fighting for first place, so we kind of used that to help us.”
Jonathan Toews was the only Hawks player to score in the shootout, but that’s all they needed.
Cam Ward, making his first start in a month, stopped all three shots he faced in the shootout and 37 of 40 before that.
“It’s unfortunate with the situation we’re in, but there’s a lot of pride when you put the jersey on,” Ward said. “You know there’s a sold-out building and you owe it to the fans, you owe it to the organization, to your teammates to make sure you put forth a good effort. Tonight wasn’t the prettiest, but to walk away with a win and everybody happy is obviously a good thing.”
It was uneventful for the Hawks for most of regulation other than Brent Seabrook and John Hayden getting into minor scuffles and some nice work by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Kane brought the puck down the right side and fed Toews crisply at the net, then Toews slipped it past Blues goaltender Jake Allen to put the Hawks up 1-0 late in the first period.
It was Toews’ career-high 35th goal, and Kane came through with his 42nd in the third period. Kane’s assist and goal pushed him to a career-best 107 points, topping his 2015-16 MVP season.
The goal snapped a 10-game drought for Kane.
Kane, Toews and Alex DeBrincat (41) are the first trio of Hawks to score at least 35 goals each since 1987-88.
“I thought we competed pretty hard, pretty decent effort against a good team,” Colliton said. “Would’ve loved us to close it out, give us a little better feeling but found a way to get two points. It’s probably as good as we could expect.”