Blackhawks follow Duncan Keith’s lead, roar back to stun Avalanche
Patrick Kane, Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik and Connor Murphy scored unanswered goals in the third period as the Hawks earned a statement victory.
DENVER — After a lopsided home loss Wednesday to the Avalanche, defenseman Duncan Keith called for the Blackhawks to start playing ‘‘pissed off’’ hockey.
In the two games since, with a vintage Keith at the forefront, the Hawks have followed his lead.
The Hawks roared back with four third-period goals Saturday to stun the Avalanche 5-3, a drastic reversal from the three blowout losses they had suffered against them since Nov. 29.
‘‘That’s what it’s going to take to turn it around,’’ Keith said. ‘‘It’s not going to be anything else other than the guys in the room. And I thought we had a good game from start to finish.’’
The Hawks controlled the second period and produced a whopping 16 scoring chances in those 20 minutes, but they trailed 3-1. Despite the Hawks’ strong work ethic in the wake of their equally determined road performance Thursday in Winnipeg, being swept in the season series seemed inevitable.
But that wasn’t the feeling in the locker room.
‘‘We came here in the intermission and just knew we were going to come back,’’ said goalie Robin Lehner, who finished with 28 saves. ‘‘We came out patient, we didn’t take any unnecessary risks, we stuck with it, we got a goal to gain momentum and here we go.’’
It was a goal by Patrick Kane with 8:38 left that provided that momentum; a goal by rookie Kirby Dach — his first in 17 games — 28 seconds later that tied the score; a snipe by Dominik Kubalik off a brilliant setup by Kane that gave the Hawks a late lead; and another 180-foot empty-netter by Connor Murphy that sealed the result.
Keith, meanwhile, was the rock through it all, handling his 26 minutes, 24 seconds like a 10-years-younger man and controlling play on every shift.
None of those things is particularly surprising, given the flashes of potential the Hawks have demonstrated this season.
But the fact they came all together is something new and encouraging. The Hawks’ light, which appearing to be on its final flame a few days ago, now has some new life.
‘‘We do have a lot of character in our group, and we have shown that we’re not going to quit,’’ coach Jeremy Colliton said. ‘‘But the next step for us is to bring it all the time, not just when our backs are completely against the wall. That’s how we’re going to finally break through.’’
Sikura benched quickly
Forward Dylan Sikura re-entered the Hawks’ lineup for the first time in six games, spent the first period on the top line with Kubalik and captain Jonathan Toews, then was thrust back into Colliton’s doghouse.
Kane was inserted into Sikura’s spot — which had been Brandon Saad’s spot in recent weeks until his ankle injury Thursday — at the start of the second period, and Sikura took only three more shifts the rest of the game.
The Hawks put Saad on injured reserve. Colliton said the two-week timeline given immediately after the injury occurred Thursday against the Jets is ‘‘still relatively the same,’’ but he’s not counting on him returning exactly then because ‘‘it’s just so far away.’’
Defenseman Calvin de Haan is thought to be seeking multiple medical opinions on his options for fixing his right shoulder. But a surgery similar to the one he had in May with the Hurricanes seems likely, and that would require a four- to six-month recovery.