CALGARY, Alberta — Alex Nylander walked into the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday with two goals in his last 34 games.
Kirby Dach walked in with two in his last 37. Alex DeBrincat, a 41-goal scorer a year ago, walked in with five in his last 27. Even the Blackhawks as a team entered with just eight total goals in their last five games, all losses.
What a difference one night in Calgary made.
Nylander left the arena a few hours later after a two-goal performance, DeBrincat and Dach also both added much-needed tallies and the Hawks altogether doubled that five-game sum with an 8-4 rout of the Flames.
“For guys like that and the way they think, the way they play the game, their skill set, scoring goals gives you a ton of energy,” said Jonathan Toews, who began the scoring onslaught in the opening minute. “It’s nice to see them get a few and see a few pucks go in. Even if you’re just on the ice and you’ve got nothing to do with the play, just to be around goals is infectious.”
The victory snapped the losing streak, provided the first win of this season-long road trip through western Canada and kept the 12th-place Hawks within six points (with three games in hand) of the eighth-place Coyotes, who upset the Capitals 3-1.
The individual effects may be even more important, though. If this Hawks team is going to make a real playoff push in March, they’ll do it by simply out-scoring opponents — that’s also what worked, when things worked, last spring — and that means scoring contributions from everyone.
“Those guys, they have the ability to chip in for us offensively,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “If they can do that, it’s going to make a big difference for us.”
Nylander first scored by brilliantly intercepting a Dillon Dube pass — “I read that he was looking at the [defenseman]...so I just jumped ahead there,” he said — and using a pretty breakaway move to beat Flames goalie David Rittich, ending Rittich’s night early.
He added another goal later, giving the Hawks a comfortable 6-3 lead heading to the third period, by finishing a Matthew Highmore centering pass.
“You always want to score every game,” Nylander said. “Finally, it’s come. We’ve had a lot of chances and finally getting the bounces in.”
For DeBrincat, who has been struggling tremendously over the past week and battling through the most adversity of his three-year NHL career, the goal — a visually unimpressive slot finish — may have been even more important. After it, he had his head up and was back to making the creative-yet-safe plays he’s known for.
“The past while, I’ve been fighting with the puck,” DeBrincat said. “I had a breakaway pass two shifts before [my goal] and fumbled it. It’s not always the pretty ones — you just go to the net and bang one in.”
Dach added his goal with just 61 seconds left by driving the net and depositing a Drake Caggiula rebound — an irrelevant goal for the team (Patrick Kane had already sealed the result with an empty-netter), but a nice boost for the rookie center nonetheless.
In fact, Saturday should prove to be a nice boost for the entire team.
“If you have a bad period, if you have a bad shift, you can’t let that turn into something more than it is,” Toews said. “You’ve got to turn it around mentally and find ways to battle back and create something, even if the good feelings aren’t always there. It’s just the way you’ve got to play in playoffs, and this has to be playoff hockey for us right now.”