Back-end forwards Dennis Rasmussen, Richard Panik and Brandon Mashinter look like odd men out after trade-deadline deals put the Blackhawks in position to re-establish the stellar Andrew Desjardins-Marcus Kruger-Andrew Shaw fourth line that worked so well in last year’s playoffs.
But Rasmussen, Panik and Mashinter gave coach Joel Quenneville something to think about with a little chemistry of their own that produced Rasmussen’s game-winning goal in the Hawks’ 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Sunday at the United Center.
With the Hawks leading 2-1 in the third period, Panik was hemmed along the boards to the left of the Capitals’ net when he kicked a perfect pass to Rasmussen in the low slot for a one-timer that beat Braden Holtby to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead at the 12:47 mark of the period. Mashinter also assisted on the goal. It turned out to be the game-winner when the Capitals’ Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on a five-on-three power play that cut the Hawks’ lead to 3-2 with 3:21 left in regulation.
“I thought it was a beautiful pass — one of the best passes we’ve seen all year,” Quenneville said.
The Desjardins-Kruger-Shaw line probably will be the Hawks’ best option. But Panik and Rasmussen showed off their own cohesion on the key goal.
“I saw he had the puck on his skate and I kind of realized he’s going to make that play,” Rasmussen said. “I’ve seen it done in practice. So I was ready for it.”
Rasmussen’s goal was his fourth of the year, but his first in 30 games since scoring Dec. 19 against the Sabres to give him three goals in his first seven games with the Hawks.
“It’s been awhile,” Rasmussen said. “I’ve tried to work hard and create chances, but it was really nice to get that goal”
As for the roster crunch, Rasmussen can count the numbers, but doesn’t feel any extra pressure to produce.
“I always feel like I have to perform,” he said. “that’s how I’ve felt my whole life. That doesn’t change anything. I see it as a positive thing. It’s going to make our team better. And we have a good chance to win more games.”
Rasmussen isn’t expected to score often on the fourth line, so to get a game-winner against the best team in the league in a marquee nationally televised game is a big one.
“For sure,” Rasmussen said. “I try to bring a two-way game and be strong in everything I do. I try to play a pretty simple game. But it’s obviously nice to get a couple of goals, too. You want to win every game, but it’s special to play against the best team, and to get the game-winning goal is unbelievable.”