There are ebbs and flows to every season, teams going through winning streaks and slumps.
The Blackhawks have been through both and rarely get too emotional through either. But following their come-from-behind victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, there was an overall feeling that they needed that one.
Artem Anisimov scored twice, his second forcing overtime, and Patrick Kane won it 56 seconds into that overtime as the Blackhawks beat the Sabres, 4-3. The Blackhawks remained atop the Western Conference standings (53 points) with the overtime win. The Minnesota Wild, who beat the San Jose Sharks 5-4 late Thursday night, remain one point behind the Blackhawks.
Kane had a three-point night, his goal coming off a Jonathan Toews rebound early into overtime. It was the icing on a game in which the Blackhawks played well but chased throughout nevertheless. The Blackhawks, despite never leading this one until Kane won it, were confident down the stretch.
“I think even at 3-2 we felt good about ourselves tying it up, and it was nice to get one before we had to pull the goalie and kind of lean on that,” Kane said. “I think the biggest thing is just trying to get that net-front presence and a couple big goals by there by Arty where he’s at the net, he makes a play, he’s patient, he’s able to finish it off. I think after that, you’re 3-3, you’ve got some confidence, huge getting a point there. And like I said, nice to finish it off.”
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Anisimov tied the game at 2 late in the second period before Kyle Okposo had the go-ahead power-play goal early in the third. But it was Anisimov once again, at his familiar spot in front of the net, recording the tying goal with just over two minutes remaining in regulation. It was Anisimov’s team-leading 18th goal of the season.
“He’s been great for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I don’t even think about his production. (It’s) how effective he is to our team game, 5-on-5, faceoffs, to the net on that line, those guys can sustain a lot of pucks. When he gets to the net it enhances all our opportunities, and he finishes around there because he’s hanging around the dirty part.”
Still, the Blackhawks had to claw their way through this one throughout. They out-shot the Sabres 20-6 in the first period yet were tied at 1. That tying goal was a pretty one from Ryan Hartman, who was falling as he wristed one high over Anders Nilsson.
“I don’t know if I got tripped or not. I can say maybe I did. I don’t want to say I fell on my own,” Hartman said to laughs.
The Blackhawks could’ve fallen short again on Thursday night. Despite a lot of things going well in their game, they were close to losing another one. But they eked this one out, and you get the sense that they absolutely needed to do so.
“Certainly a big two points; kind of changed the flow we’ve had recently,” Quenneville said. “I liked the way we played tonight. I thought we had our best first period in a long stretch, maybe all year. We didn’t give up many chances, but we seemed to be behind all game. But it was a very timely goal by Arty again, great play to finish it off. Our goals were nice plays tonight. I thought we put a lot of bodies and pucks to the net. Outside of playing from behind, I thought we played one of our better games.”