After struggling to find their offense for eight games, the Blackhawks continued their outburst with a stunning comeback at the United Center on Tuesday night.
Let by a four-point effort from Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks overcame another rough performance by Nikolai Khabibulin and a 4-2 deficit late in the second period to win 6-5 in regulation.
After their 6-4 win on Opening Night, the Blackhawks didn’t scored more than three goals in a game again until their game in Tampa last week. But Chicago has now scored 19 goals in their last four games (2-1-1).
The score was tied at the end of one on Tuesday night, and Khabibulin didn’t have a bad first period. He was credited with 14 saves against 15 shots in the opening 20 minutes, but Johnny Oduya cleared one puck that slipped past him mid-period.
Andrew Shaw was credited with a power play goal just under seven minutes into the game to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead. Chicago held onto the lead until Milan Michalek scored with 60 seconds remaining in the first period.
The two teams exchanged goals quickly, with Kyle Turris and Marian Hossa scoring 50 seconds apart in the early second. Turris’ goal came late in a Sens power play, and Hossa’s was his 100th in a Chicago sweater. But after Hossa’s tally, it appeared the wheels were coming off.
Khabibulin allowed three goals in the first seven shots he faced, with bad goals from Joe Corvo and Mika Zibanejad only 55 seconds apart giving the Sens a 4-2 lead. The Zibanejad was enough for coach Joel Quenneville, and Chicago made a change in net.
Corey Crawford came and the offense immediately responded.
Toews scored his first goal of the night just over three minutes after the change in net to bring the Hawks back to 4-3, and that’s where the score remained at the end of the second period.
The third period opened with a determined Toews taking charge. He scored his second of the night to tie the game 80 seconds into the third period, and completed the natural hat trick just under eight minutes later to give the Blackhawks the lead. Shaw scored his second goal of the night almost five minutes later, the tally that would prove to be the game-winner; Zack Smith scored 13 seconds after Shaw’s goal to get the Sens within one.
Crawford stopped 14 of 15 shots in 27:58 to earn his second victory in as many nights. On the other end of the rink, Craig Anderson allowed six goals against 40 Chicago shots to take the loss.
The box score was pretty for most of the Hawks (other than Khabibulin). Toews led the way with his three goals and one assist, and Shaw had a three-point evening with two goals and one assist. Hossa also had three points on the evening with one goal and assists on two of Toews’ goals. Patrick Sharp had two assists in the game as well.
After the game, Quenneville referred to Toews’ performance as “special,” saying it was one that fans will remember.
Jeremy Morin, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were credited with goals in the game. Seabrook led the way with six hits; Brandon Bollig had four hits in 9:58 in the game.
The new-look second line that combined for six points on Monday night was kept off the scoreboard despite a number of good chances against Ottawa. Brandon Pirri had a better night at the dot on Tuesday, winning seven of 15 draws, but was minus-one in 13:25 on the ice.
The Hawks have scored 14 goals in their last three games with Michal Handzus out of the lineup.
For Ottawa, Kyle Turris led the way with one goal and one assist, while Jason Spezza won 13 of 18 faceoffs.
The Blackhawks can’t be thrilled with the performance of Khabibulin, and there will be plenty of attention given to Rockford’s Antti Raanta in the wake of Tuesday night’s performance. Raanta is 5-1-0 with a .926 save percentage for the IceHogs, and has played especially well of late.