By Michael Kelly
Special contributor for CSNChicago.com
DENVER – The Chicago Blackhawks have had struggles scoring 5-on-5 this season but their power play has been one of the best in the league.
When they hit the road, they’re even better with the man advantage.
That trend continued Thursday with two big power-play goals against Colorado, including one from Jonathan Toews at 3:29 of overtime to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win.
“The power play’s been big for us lately,” Toews said. “Nice to see that continue because it’s obviously making a difference in some of these tight games, especially against division teams like Colorado. Nice to see the power play have a little success again tonight.”
Chicago came into Thursday fourth overall in the NHL with a 23.3 power-play percentage after finishing 19th last season at 17.6 percent. They’re getting production from both power-play units, which has contributed to the overall success.
“I think the balance of the two units have been the most consistent part about it, game in and game out,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Both lines can start, both lines are capable of offense. You don’t have to basically ride one unit most of the time.”
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The power play struggled a little for six games, going 2-for-13, but broke out against Arizona on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks were 3-for-4 with the man advantage, the first time this season they had three power-play goals.
That continued a run of success on the road. Chicago leads the NHL in road power-play percentage at 27.4 and has at least one power-play goal in 13 of their 19 road games.
Their first opportunity against Colorado on Thursday generated more chances for the Avalanche. Goalie Scott Darling misplayed a puck between the circles and left the net open but a bouncing pass by Carl Soderberg bailed him out. Later, Colorado center John Mitchell hit the crossbar.
The Blackhawks scored on their second chance when Patrick Kane easily beat Semyon Varlamov off a crossing pass from Artemi Panarin 4:20 into the second period.
“Our No. 1 unit’s really been firing and the rest, when we get the opportunity, are trying to make something happen,” Toews said. “There’s not as much pressure on the second unit.”
Both units have shown they can score, and it has helped Chicago keep pace in the Central Division.
“Hopefully the power play can always be there,” Quenneville said. “That’s key, especially in today’s game.”