Finally, Jonathan Toews got off the schneid.
The Blackhawks wanted to treat their home fans to a divisional victory before Christmas, and had the right opponent to do just that (at least on paper); Colorado was 2-11-1 in their previous 14 games. But not many games against the Avs have been easy for the Hawks in recent years, and Friday night was no different.
The opening few minutes weren’t great for the Blackhawks, but starting games hasn’t exactly been a bright spot for Chicago during their recent hot streak.
In fact, the first good look the Hawks had at the net was a breakaway for Jordin Tootoo… that the pointless (in the box score and on the payroll) Tootoo decided to get pretty with in spite of the scoreless game. Tootoo put the puck between his legs before putting a weak shot on net, because having a point before Christmas is too much to ask.
Colorado out-shot the Hawks 13-12 in the first period but neither team was able to find the back of the net. Corey Crawford, making his return after missing time because of an appendectomy, was very good in the first.
In the second, Crawford was amazing and Toews got to work.
At 9:55 into the middle frame, Blackhawks legend Rene Bourque went to the box. Chicago’s first power play unit didn’t generate anything before a change, and the second unit didn’t get anything through either. But with three seconds left in the advantage, Artemi Panarin found Toews on the doorstep and Chicago’s captain scored for the first time in what felt like forever.
Toews had a number of great looks early and finally ended his drought, giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
After the Toews goal, Crawford was the show in the second. Vinnie Hinostroza, who missed the morning skate because of an illness, went to the box at 15:38 and Crawford was absolutely stellar on the penalty kill. He made a series of ridiculous saves in the final seconds of the advantage to keep the score 1-0 Chicago, where it remained at the end of 40 minutes.
Through two periods, Toews had won 11 of 16 faceoffs and had a game-high five shots on net while Crawford had stopped 24 shots.
On the other end of the ice, Calvin Pickard was having himself a game as well. Colorado’s netminder made 26 saves against 27 shots in the first two periods, keeping his team in a game.
Colorado came into Friday night’s action in the midst of an awful stretch of hockey. The Avs had lost their previous five games by a combined score of 19-5, and had been shutout by Toronto and Minnesota in their previous two contests.
Lack of discipline and inconsistent offense have been their issues all season, but a lackluster third period by the Hawks allowed them to hang around into the third period on the road against the Western Conference’s best team.
Chicago started the third period with 83 seconds of power play time with Mikko Rantanen in the box. The Hawks would fail to get a shot on net before the power play expired, however.
Three minutes into the third, Andreas Martinsen decided to run Ryan Hartman in front of the Hawks bench. Chicago wasn’t able to get anything done on their power play (again), and the Avs were able to generate some momentum coming off the penalty kill.
Rantanen redirected a Tyson Barrie shot past Crawford at 5:42 into the third to tie the game. The shot, Colorado’s 27th of the night, found Rantanen in the right spot and the young forward put home his fifth of the season.
Regulation ended with the score still knotted at one. Crawford had made 32 saves; Pickard had stopped 38. And, for only the third time in the month of December, the Avalanche achieved a point in the standings.
Colorado finished the deal 25 seconds into overtime. Patrick Kane turned the puck over, leading to a 2-on-1 for Barrie and Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon put the first shot – the only shot – of the extra session on net and beat Crawford for the first overtime game-winning goal of his career.
Toews finished the game with a game-high seven shots on net and won 20 of 28 faceoffs. Brent Seabrook led Chicago with three hits and Trevor van Riemsdyk had a team-high three blocked shots. Tootoo skated only 4:09 and Andrew Desjardins was limited to 5:47 in the loss.
Tanner Kero, who was recalled before the game to replace Artem Anisimov, won four of 11 faceoffs with one blocked shot and one takeaway in 11:06. Hinostroza won five of 10 faceoffs and was credited with two hits, one takeaway and four shots on net. He also had all four of Chicago’s penalty minutes in the game.