Some victories you just need. It seemed that was the case for the Blackhawks, who stemmed their slump with an overtime victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
We talked about the overall stuff in the game story. Since this will be a quick turnaround — another game here on Friday night, this one against the Carolina Hurricanes — let’s skip all the bravado and get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 4-3 over the Sabres.
1. Artem Anisimov shines. The second-line center came off his upper-body injury just after Christmas and hasn’t skipped much of a beat. When the Blackhawks needed a jolt on Thursday, he was there to provide it with goals late in the second and third periods, both tying the game at those times. Anisimov now leads the Blackhawks with 18 goals this season. As Artemi Panarin said (through Igor Alfimov), “I’m really happy for him having such a great season. It’s proof that if you work hard, you’ll get rewarded.”
2. Penalty kill struggles. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill has been very good as of late, but when needed on Thursday night, it failed. Kyle Okposo came through on one, and Jack Eichel scored on another early in the third. As our own Chris Kamka tweeted, the Blackhawks had gone 20 consecutive games without allowing multiple power-play goals before Thursday. The kill didn’t hurt the Blackhawks in the end, thanks to a late comeback, but it made things tougher on them.
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3. Marian Hossa is fine. You could see Hossa looked fully recovered from his upper-body at Wednesday’s practice, but confirmation in a game is always a bonus. Well the Blackhawks got that, as Hossa looked like he didn’t skip a beat in his first game since Dec. 20. Hossa was sharp, shooting and one of the Blackhawks’ best players out of the gate. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “So smart and he showed some good pace, speed and the puck was following him around in shifts. He’s so useful for us.”
4. Killing momentum quickly. The Blackhawks were set to go into second intermission down 2-1, despite outplaying the Sabres for most of this one. But thanks to Anisimov’s spin-and-shoot effort just 18 seconds after Okposo’s go-ahead goal, the Blackhawks went in with a 2-2 tie instead.
5. Getting to the net. The Blackhawks did a better job of that on Thursday — Anisimov’s second goal was Exhibit A of what can happen when you do. But Quenneville wants to see it on a more consistent basis. “I think we can still do a better job of trying to play net when you go to the net and distract the goalie. When you’re playing right in front of his eyes, don’t make it convenient for him to see clearly at the puck and that’s a work in progress. We’re getting there, and let’s do a better job once we’re there.”