Erik Gustafsson ties it late, but Blackhawks fall to Jets 4-3 in overtime
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If, down the line, we remember one thing about the Blackhawks’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Jets on Friday at the United Center, it’s sure to be Erik Gustafsson’s long, straight-on screamer that beat goalie Laurent Brossoit high with 7.5 seconds left in the third period.
The defenseman couldn’t have placed it any more perfectly, though he admitted he was simply aiming to put the puck on net.
“I didn’t know there was seven seconds left,” he said. “But it was good to see it go in.”
Jets center Mark Scheifele answered with an overtime winner, holding the Hawks to a hard-earned point. But Scheifele’s first goal of the night was just as important.
The emerging star took a pass that slid under John Hayden’s outstretched stick, dropped to one knee and wristed a shot past goalie Corey Crawford. It was the game’s opening tally, and it spelled trouble for the Hawks for three big, fat, unsightly reasons.
One, it was, as just stated, the opening goal of the game. The Hawks (10-19-5) are an amazingly bad 2-18-1 when the other team scores first. Their 8-1-4 record when they score first comes nowhere close to making up for it.
Two, Scheifele’s goal came on the power play, where the division-leading Jets (21-9-2) are the NHL’s gold standard. They came in ranked No. 1 in the league on the power play, converting 30.4 percent of the time. The Hawks were sporting the league’s worst power play, at 12.1 percent, and, compounding matters, ranked third from the bottom at killing penalties.
Put another, no less dreadful way: Scheifele’s score gave the Jets 20 more power-play goals than the Hawks have on the season. At the same time, the Jets had given up 10 fewer than the Hawks have on the kill. That’s a staggering differential of 30 goals on special teams alone.
And three, Scheifele has owned the Hawks this season. When he put the winner on the board — for his eighth point in three wins against the Hawks — it hardly was a surprise.
The good news is that Artem Anisimov is alive. His presence on the ice at the morning skate confirmed as much, five days after Canadiens bruiser Shea Weber rocked him with a shoulder to the chest along the boards.
It’s no joke to be on the business end of a Weber hit. Anisimov has been in concussion protocol since, though getting some work in with his teammates several hours before a home game against the Jets was an encouraging sign.
“Each day, I feel better and better,” he said. “It’s nice.”
Will the veteran center be activated in time to play Sunday against the Sharks? He’ll be eligible after a full week on injured reserve, but it’s no sure thing he’ll be cleared by then. These things aren’t to be rushed.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Healin’ well, feelin’ well
When defenseman Brandon Davidson was told after having surgery on his right knee Nov. 27 that he wouldn’t be able to play for six to eight weeks, it felt like forever.
“But here I am, two and a half weeks [later], and I’m on the ice, almost at full workouts,” he said, sporting a big smile, after participating in Friday’s morning skate.
Davidson was hurt late in a 3-2 overtime loss at Carolina two weeks before his surgery. He figures he has at least another couple of weeks to go before he rejoins the hunt for ice time on what is becoming a crowded Hawks blue line.
Rutta to Rockford
Defenseman Jan Rutta cleared waivers and was assigned to the Hawks’ American Hockey League affiliate. Rutta has eight goals and 26 points in 80 career games with the Hawks.