Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks outlast Duncan Keith, Oilers in throwback game
The Hawks won 4-3 in overtime after Toews returned from his concussion and Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson were honored at the United Center.
The applause for former Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith’s return to the United Center on Thursday — customarily celebrated with a welcome-back video at the first TV timeout — carried on for so long that Keith eventually left the Oilers’ bench to take a small lap on the ice.
Minutes earlier, Keith and Hawks captain Jonathan Toews playfully had fought over a ceremonial puck drop conducted by former Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson — an even bigger blast from the past.
And in a throwback night at the United Center, Toews and the Hawks outlasted Keith and the Oilers 4-3 in overtime.
Alex DeBrincat scored the game-winner on a cross-ice pass from Patrick Kane on a power play after a series of chances, enabling the Hawks to finish their six-game homestand on a high note, despite earning only two victories on it.
Dominik Kubalik snapped an 11-game goal drought, taking advantage of a turnover by Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen, to put the Hawks ahead 3-2 early in the third period. But the Oilers’ Evander Kane banked in a tying goal with 49 seconds left, marking the fourth time this season the Hawks have conceded a lead late in an extra-attacker situation.
Keith played 20 minutes, 45 seconds in his first game back in Chicago.
‘‘It feels like yesterday, really, that I was in here, eating pregame meals and things like that,’’ he told reporters Wednesday. ‘‘I spent a lot of time here. It’s nice to be back, but it’s definitely a unique feeling.’’
Toews, meanwhile, played 16:21 in his long-awaited return from a concussion, leading an influx of players who rejoined the Hawks’ lineup.
Toews and Tyler Johnson, who had missed more than four months after undergoing disc-replacement surgery, fleshed out and added to the depth of the Hawks’ forward lines significantly. And Riley Stillman’s and Calvin de Haan’s returns made a similar impact on defense.
‘‘It was another tough little setback,’’ Toews said. ‘‘But I just tried to find the mentality that whatever I’m going through . . . to just keep sticking with the process and taking care of myself. I’m appreciating I can come to the rink and play this game.’’
‘Hammer’ returns, too
Hjalmarsson, who quietly retired last summer after his fourth season with the Coyotes, was honored as part of the Hawks’ Legacy Night series.
The Swedish defenseman, who played an unheralded but crucial role during all three of the Hawks’ Stanley Cup runs last decade, finished his career with 1,605 blocked shots in 821 regular-season games and another 316 in 137 postseason games.
‘‘[Niklas was] the ultimate teammate,’’ Kane said Wednesday. ‘‘The way he threw his body in front of shots, you’d be like, ‘Oh, Hammer is done after this one.’ And then you’d see him out there again next shift.’’
Humble and understated, Hjalmarsson delivered a funny quip after watching his own welcome-back video Thursday: ‘‘Great highlights, [but Oilers star Connor] McDavid can probably do all that stuff in two games.’’
Kane on board
Kane said Wednesday he’s on board with the Hawks’ rebuilding plan, suggesting he might want to stay with them through it.
‘‘There’s probably a lot of time to determine what’s going to happen in that regard,’’ he said. ‘‘But let’s be honest: I love Chicago, I love the city, I love the fans. The organization has been amazing to me and my family. There’s really not much to [not] like here.
‘‘There’s always business decisions in the game of hockey. There are not many guys that play their whole career with one team, so it would be a privilege and an honor to do that. But we’ll see how it all plays out.’’