Toews, Blackhawks close 2015 on high note with overtime win over Avs


Toews, Blackhawks close 2015 on high note with overtime win over Avs

By Michael Kelly

Special contributor for

DENVER – Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are difficult to stop individually. When the Chicago Blackhawks’ pair are on the ice together, they are nearly impossible to contain.

The duo proved it again Thursday night and helped the Blackhawks to a sweep of their two-game road trip.

Kane had a goal and two assists, including one on Toews' game-winner at 3:29 of overtime, and Chicago beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3.

Artem Anisimov and Andrew Desjardins also had goals, and Scott Darling stopped 27 shots for the Blackhawks, who snapped a four-game losing streak to the Avalanche.

“We needed that one,” Toews said. “That team plays really well here. We didn’t have the effort we needed at home against Colorado so we returned the favor and got a big one tonight.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews got the game winner when he took a pass from Kane in front of Semyon Varlamov and roofed a shot. It was his fourth overtime goal of the season and 13th overall.

“He made a great play on the goal tonight,” Kane said. “That (defenseman) slid up with me I just slid it down to him, he made a great play being patient with it and getting it upstairs.”

The Blackhawks finally solved Varlamov, who was 8-0 in his last nine games against Chicago.

The Blackhawks had chances to expand their 3-2 lead early in the third but couldn’t capitalize. Varlamov made a diving blocker save on Phillip Danault early in the period. The Avalanche also killed off two power plays in the frame.

Chicago finished 2-for-6 on the power play.

[MORE: Some of Blackhawks best prospects getting opportunities in NHL]

Colorado tied it after the second kill when defenseman Erik Johnson skated into the zone with the puck and beat Darling through the legs with a shot from the right circle.

“They get back in the game 3-3, and I didn’t have a comfortable feeling so it’s nice to get that one off our back and maybe have a little more confidence going down the end with this team,” coach Joel Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks were swarming in the second, outshooting Colorado 17-5. They connected early when Desjardins tipped in a pass from Teuvo Teravainen at 2:07 for his fourth goal of the season. Kane gave Chicago a 3-1 lead with a power-play goal at 4:20 of the second. It was his team-leading 23rd of the season.

The Avalanche didn’t have many chances in the second but scored on one of them when Cody McLeod beat Darling with a shot from the slot at 11:32.

The start of the game had a familiar feel for the Blackhawks. Colorado took a 1-0 lead just 4:04 in when Carl Soderberg scored a power-play goal off a nice feed from Alex Tanguay.

The Blackhawks had chances but couldn’t solve Varlamov until late in the first. Anisimov tied it on a great pass from the slot by Kane at 18:32 and that seemed to energize Chicago.

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?