WINNIPEG, Manitoba —Niklas Hjalmarsson noticed something strange late in the second period in Winnipeg on Friday night: elbow room.
“I was looking at our bench and I was wondering where everybody was,” Hjalmarsson said.
The Hawks were already playing without Corey Crawford (still out with an apparent head injury), Marian Hossa (sick), and Duncan Keith (suspended). Late in the second, they were without Andrew Shaw (had to be helped off the ice), Trevor van Riemsdyk (left the game after taking a big hit from Blake Wheeler), and Jonathan Toews (took a Hjalmarsson clearing attempt in the right ear).
So nobody was complaining about a dicey 5-4 victory over the last-place Jets, won on Brent Seabrook’s goal 62 seconds into overtime, set up by Artemi Panarin, who busted out of his slump with two goals and two assists.
“You always take two points,” said Hjalmarsson, who played nearly 27 minutes in Keith’s absence. “It wasn’t pretty today, but we found a way.”
Toews and van Riemsdyk returned for the third period. Shaw did not, but Joel Quenneville said he’s day to day with an upper-body injury, and that it’s not serious.
“I haven’t seen that in a long time, losing three players in one period and get a couple back,” Quenneville said. “It was a crazy game all game long.”
The Hawks were on the verge of losing in regulation after leading through two periods for the first time in 71 games when Panarin scored his second goal of the game to tie it 4-4 before teeing up Seabrook’s winner in overtime. The Hawks are now 68-0-3 when leading after two since the start of last season.
They led 3-2 through two on goals by Panarin, Brandon Mashinter and Patrick Kane, his 40th of the season. But Dustin Byfuglien scored the equalizer straight out of the penalty box — the Hawks wasted 38 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play —and Blake Wheeler scored his second goal of the game to make it 4-3 at 11:39 of the third. Seconds before Byfuglien’s goal, Panarin misfired on a one-timer set up by van Riemsdyk that could have put the game away.
But Panarin redeemed himself with the game-tying goal at 15:15. His four-point night came after a nine-game stretch in which he had no goals and two assists.
“It’s always good thing for us when they’re on the scoring sheet,” Hjalmarsson said of Panarin and Kane. “That whole line was carrying us through pretty much three-quarters of the season, if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where we’d be in the standings right now. It’s always good for us when they find a way to get points.”
And getting points is all that matters. With the two the Hawks got, they moved a comfortable six points ahead of Nashville for third place, a critical spot in the standings to avoid a trip to Los Angeles or Anaheim in the first round. They also moved within four points of the second-place St. Louis Blues with four games to go.
“It was huge for our team,” Seabrook said. “It was nice to see us bounce back right in the third after giving up that goal. The resiliency of this team, it was good to see. And I think it’s definitely a confidence booster going forward to know we can be down and get a big goal, get it to overtime, or whatever we need to do to get the two points.”