After falling behind 2-0 through 40 minutes, the Blackhawks flipped a switch and somehow came out of Columbus with two points.
The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 in a shootout on Sunday afternoon. Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson scored the two goals for the Blackhawks, and Robin Lehner made 31 saves to earn his first shootout victory in four tries this season.
“This was one of those games that maybe in the first two periods we didn’t deserve to win the game, but that’s how hockey works sometimes,” Lehner said. “We stuck with it, we got our goals, and we really battled hard to get back.”
With the win, the Blackhawks are 17-17-6 through 40 games and have now won four of their last five contests. Believe it or not, they are just five points back of a playoff spot despite getting off to a rocky start this year.
Things didn’t go so well for the Hawks in the first 40 minutes against the Jackets, and their chances of coming away with two points looked bleak. They registered a mere 12 shots on goal and couldn’t get anything going offensively.
Columbus got on the board first at 6:54 of the opening period, as Riley Nash’s wrist shot from near the blue line deflected off Slater Koekkoek’s skate and into the net. The shot appeared to catch Lehner by surprise, which is something that hasn’t been said much this season.
Pierre-Luc Dubois made it 2-0 Blue Jackets later in the first period after Nick Foligno made a ridiculous no-look pass to set up the goal. Erik Gustafsson had a horrendous defensive-zone turnover in front of the net, which led to the opportunity.
“I didn’t like our first period at all, but I thought we found a way to respond in the second,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “It’s not like we dominated the second, but we played much better, had our chances and were able to stay in the game and give ourselves a chance to come back.”
Dylan Strome finally got the Blackhawks on the board at 7:33 of the third period by deflecting a Connor Murphy shot from the point past the glove of Joonas Korpisalo. It was just the third time in December that Strome has found the back of the net.
Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones gave the Blackhawks their second powerplay in the final six minutes of the third period by shooting the puck over the glass. The Hawks cashed in on their fourth man advantage of the night as Erik Gustafsson redeemed himself by rifling a one-timer past Korpisalo to tie the game 2-2. Gustafsson’s second powerplay goal of the season ended an 0-for-17 drought for the Blackhawks powerplay.
As the game reached the shootout after neither team scored during the 3-on-3 period, there were some concerns about leaving Robin Lehner in the game. Coming into Sunday, Lehner was 8-23 in shootouts in his NHL career.
“Zack Smith, before the shootout started, told me a really, really bad story. Lehner said. He just put it in my head, and that’s all I was thinking about.”
Well whatever Smith told Lehner, it worked. Lehner stopped two of three shots in the shootout (one did hit the post, but whatever) to lead the Hawks to victory.
Jonathan Toews led off with a nifty backhand five-hole move to beat Korpisalo, who was injured on the play and forced to leave the game. Backup netminder Elvis Merzlikins came in cold to face Patrick Kane, which is just an unfair matchup.
“We were all happy for him,” Strome said about Lehner finally winning in the shootout. “He’s obviously been pretty vocal about it. He hasn’t had the best shootout numbers, but [he’s] one of the best goalies in the league in my opinion, and it was only a matter of time before he did it in the shootout.”
The Blackhawks are back in action on New Year’s Eve on the road against the 20-16-5 Calgary Flames. Calgary currently holds the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, and the Hawks are five points behind them with a game in hand. The contest is slated for 8:00 p.m. CT and is scheduled to be on SNW, NBCSCH, and NHL.TV.
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