Blackhawks knock off Avs on Jonathan Toews’ overtime goal
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Sure, it was nice when Jonathan Toews popped in the game-winning goal off a pass from Patrick Kane nine seconds into overtime Tuesday, giving the Blackhawks a 2-1 victory against the Avalanche at the United Center. Winning is always better than losing.
In the standings, however, it was largely inconsequential. Even a 16-game winning streak to close the season probably wouldn’t be enough to get the Hawks into the playoffs in the hyper-competitive Western Conference.
Still, there’s meaning in these games — and not just for fringe players such as goalie J-F Berube, who made 33 saves as he auditions for a regular job next season. The urgency is still there, Toews said, to make sure this lost season isn’t a totally wasted one.
‘‘We need to grow,’’ Toews said. ‘‘We need to learn from what we’ve been through. No better time than now. Don’t wait until the offseason, whenever that comes, or next year. We can all grow as players and look around and let the bumps in the road sink in and just keep analyzing what we’ve got to do better. And try and apply that as soon as we can.’’
The victory against the Avs, who are fighting desperately for a playoff spot, was an encouraging one. The Hawks’ defense played much better after a disastrous three-game California swing, with Erik Gustafsson scoring early. Berube was terrific. Brandon Saad was a menace, even though his apparent go-ahead goal late in the second period was overturned after a lengthy review for a ‘‘distinct kicking motion.’’ The Hawks are 4-1-0 in their last five home games after losing seven in a row at the United Center.
After the game, coach Joel Quenneville pointed to Toews’ fight Sunday with the Ducks’ Ryan Kesler as proof of a pulse.
‘‘We want our team to be competitive,’’ he said. ‘‘Play hard, play the right way. Jonny sticking up for his teammates the other day was a great illustration of the passion that you need, regardless of where you are [in the standings].’’
Gustafsson went from being an NHL regular to being an afterthought. A year and a half later, he signed a two-year, one-way contract extension that carries a $1.2 million salary-cap hit. He wasn’t sure the day would come.
‘‘Two more years,’’ he said with a smile. ‘‘I’m glad I signed here, and I love this city, I love this team and I love the fans over here. I’m blessed. It’s fun.’’
Gustafsson played 41 games with the Hawks during the 2015-16 season, then was passed up on the organizational depth chart. But he bided his time in Rockford and worked on his game. He had five goals and 25 assists in 68 games with the IceHogs last season and three goals and 14 assists in 25 games this season before being called up in January.
He has two goals and four assists in 20 games with the Hawks this season.
Goalie Corey Crawford’s situation is ‘‘status quo,’’ according to Quenneville, and no news is bad news.
Quenneville had said last Wednesday that he hoped Crawford, who has been out since Christmas with a head injury, might get back on the ice after the Hawks returned from their California trip. But he said Tuesday that it’s doubtful Crawford will be on the ice in the next few days.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.