After struggling to pull away from the Predators for 40 minutes, a change made by Joel Quenneville provided the spark the Blackhawks needed to clinch a playoff spot.
The Hawks dominated the first two periods, putting 29 shots on Pekka Rinne while allowing only 16 to reach Ray Emery. Unfortunately, the scoreboard showed two goals for each team.
And when David Legwand scored early in the third period, many in attendance at the United Center started to wonder if another third period disaster was about to unfold.
But chasing one goal and two points for a playoff berth, the Blackhawks put their big money line together and it was explosive.
After wasting two periods skating with Marcus Kruger and Daniel Carcillo, Quenneville took the handcuffs off Patrick Kane and put him with Jonathan Toews and
Andrew Brandon Saad.
Saad tied the game at three, scoring his ninth goal off a rebound in traffic in front of the net. Only 55 seconds later, Kane pursued the puck into the boards and found Toews, who was streaking into the play. Chicago’s captain buried the game-winning goal, his 19th of the season.
With less than one minute left in the game, Saad showed incredible maturity by passing on an empty net goal to get the puck to Kane, who put it home for his 20th of the season.
In less than ten minutes, Kane, Toews and Saad each picked up two points in the box score and led the Hawks to two important points in the standing.
Andrew Shaw scored a goal for the first time in eight games and added an assist later in the third period. Bryan Bickell extended his personal point streak to three games, and scored in both weekend games against Nashville; Bickell also posted three hits in the game.
The Hawks had an impressively physical game on Sunday night as well. Only four Chicago players – Marian Hossa, Viktor Stalberg, Duncan Keith and Michael Frolik – weren’t credited with at least one hit in the game.
And, once again, the Blackhawks dominated at the dot. Led by Toews, who won 11 of 16 faceoffs in the game, Chicago won 32 of 55 in the game. Michal Handzus continues to impress, winning eight of 14 in the game and Kruger won eight of 11 as well.
In three games since he was acquired from San Jose, Handzus has won 28 of 43 faceoffs (65.1 percent).
With wins on back-to-back days, Emery may now force the organization to think about which of their netminders sits on top of the depth chart as the playoffs draw near. Emery allowed three goals against 42 shots over the weekend, but made a number of key saves on Sunday to keep the Hawks in the game.
Also, with one successful penalty kill on Sunday night the Hawks extended their streak to 10 straight games without allowing a powerplay goal.
Having won four of their last five games, Chicago will play in Minnesota on Tuesday night.