Blackhawks’ old-time stars ‘show up’ in 3-2 shootout victory against Panthers
The playoffs remain a long shot for the Hawks, but gutsy performances such as the one they gave Saturday back up their claim that they’re not out of it yet.
SUNRISE, Fla. — With the playoffs a long shot for the Blackhawks, the challenge for coach Jeremy Colliton has been keeping his players locked in despite sitting far from where they imagined they would be in the standings.
That disappointment can take a toll on morale, but Colliton wants to see the Hawks care enough to play hard — and play within his system — until the end. That alone won’t always overcome the Hawks’ talent deficit, but it can keep them from an all-out spiral.
They showed Colliton what he needed to see in a 3-2 shootout victory Saturday against the Panthers and former coach Joel Quenneville.
‘‘That’s what we’re asking of the guys: Show up,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘We want the results, but it’s all about how we perform. Let’s put ourselves in position to get results.’’
The game was evidence that his players hear him. It would have been an easy one to concede at the end of a weeklong road trip and an exhausting month.
The Hawks were hardly artistic, but who cares about that anymore? These aren’t the title teams of the last decade. Any victory is a good one for them at this point.
They took a 2-1 lead six minutes into the second period — the goals were blue-collar chip-ins by Jonathan Toews and Drake Caggiula off shots by defensemen — and nearly held it to the end. But Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson tied the score on a two-on-one with 1:28 left in regulation.
In overtime, however, the Hawks’ best players showed the grit of their glory days. With a little more than a minute left, defenseman Duncan Keith hit the ice in full sprawl to break up a two-on-one that could have ended the game.
Goalie Corey Crawford finished regulation and overtime with 38 saves on 40 shots. He then stopped both skaters he faced in the shootout, and Toews and Patrick Kane buried their shots for the victory.
‘‘We want to make the playoffs,’’ said Toews, who became the first player in NHL history to score 50 shootout goals. ‘‘We’ve pushed each other hard all year. There’s been a lot of bumps in the road . . . but credit to these guys in the room. I think there’s a lot more experience, a lot more character.
‘‘We’re ready to play our best hockey, and I think the last two games have been a pretty good example of that.’’
On Thursday, wing Dominik Kubalik’s hat trick lifted the Hawks to a 5-2 victory at the Lightning.
The Hawks are six points out of the final wild-card spot, pending the result of a late game Saturday between the Jets and Oilers. There are four teams between them and that spot.
Even with a home-heavy schedule, it looks too late for the Hawks to make a run. But the team is determined to give chase.
‘‘Absolutely,’’ Toews said. ‘‘The opportunity is there.’’
The Hawks will play 11 of their next 15 games at home, and 10 of their last 17 opponents are currently out of the playoff field.
The downside, however, is that they must do it without feisty wing Andrew Shaw after they ruled him out for the season with a concussion. He would have been especially helpful at a time like this.
‘‘A lot of personality in the dressing room, holds guys accountable, pushes them, makes them uncomfortable, drags them into the fight, helps to prepare them to play,’’ Colliton said of Shaw. ‘‘He can get the group engaged, and obviously we miss that.’’
The Hawks also shut down center Zack Smith, who will have back surgery Friday.
Between those losses and the players they dealt at the trade deadline, the Hawks are depleted. But they aren’t dead.