Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at the United Center on Friday:
1. Blackhawks stringing together points
The Blackhawks turned in their best 60-minute effort of the season on Monday and they wanted to build on that performance after a three-day layoff. The start was slow against Columbus, but the finish was strong and it ended on a Jonathan Toews overtime goal.
After starting the season with back-to-back losses in regulation, the Blackhawks have picked up five out of a possible six points in their past three games. They're starting to climb in the standings.
"That's a hard-working team," Toews said. "They've got some skill, they played well as a team and they didn't give us much room out there. It's probably not our best start, there's a lot of things that we know we can do better, but for us to hang in there and tie things up, give ourselves a chance in overtime, get the crowd into it, you've got to find ways to win those games, can't let them slip, so it's nice to get two points."
2. Penalty kill 'excellent'
The Blue Jackets came into the game with a bottom-third-ranked special teams, converting on 17.8 percent of their power plays and killing off 73.7 percent of their penalties. This was an area the Blackhawks could exploit, and they did.
The Blackhawks went 1-for-4 on the power play thanks to an Alex DeBrincat goal, but it was the penalty kill that allowed the team to be in it till the very end. The Blackhawks killed off all four penalties, including a crucial one late in the third period to keep the game knotted up at 2-2.
"I thought the penalty kill was excellent," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We were really good. At any point, if they score and they had multiple chances, it really changes the game. It allowed our power play, in the end, to come through and make a difference for us. That was big, and I thought they were full value for not getting scored on, too. We didn’t give up much. Just as likely to score going the other way."
3. Coming out on top in the first period
The Blackhawks were outplayed in the first period, which hasn't usually been the case this season. The Blue Jackets led in every statistically category except the one that matters the most and that's the scoreboard. It easily could've gone the other way.
But the Blackhawks survived when they weren't at their best, and Drake Caggiula opened the scoring with a beautiful shot at the 15:35 mark of the opening frame. It's the fourth straight game the Blackhawks have scored first.
"Didn’t love our first period," Colliton said. "I think we were fortunate to be in the lead. I did like our response in the second. Even though they tied it up I thought we played much better in the second period. And after that, I thought we were reasonably solid. ... It wasn’t perfect but it’s also a positive that we found a way to win anyway."
4. Robin Lehner turns in another strong effort
The Blackhawks don't get out of the first period with the lead without Lehner, who finished with 37 saves on 39 shots for a save percentage of .949. He stopped all 13 shots in the first 20 minutes, a majority of which were high quality.
The first goal to Pierre-Luc Dubois, Lehner committed to the poke-check but then got caught too far out of the net. Otherwise, he was strong between the pipes for the Blackhawks.
"I felt really good," Lehner said. "Feel like I see the puck well but the first two games I've played I've also made some mistakes and the good thing those mistakes are pretty easy to clean up. So I felt like the first goal is unacceptable but I made up for it. So just got to go and keep trying to get better.