The NHL implemented the bye week for the first time this season in an effort to give teams a five-day break before the stretch run of the regular season.
Entering Saturday's game, teams were 3-10-3 coming out of those games with many of those losses coming in convincing fashion.
Despite a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, the Blackhawks weren't one of those teams. They appeared to be reenergized more than rusty, and it showed in the opening 20 minutes of the game when they fired off 30 shot attempts (12 on goal) compared to the Oilers' 10 (four on goal).
But early in the second period, momentum shifted after Ryan Hartman came to the defense of teammate Tanner Kero, who was leveled by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba in the neutral zone.
Hartman skated over to Gryba and dropped the gloves near the goal line, afterwards getting tagged with a two-minute penalty for instigating, five minutes for fighting and another 10 for a misconduct.
"It's kind of a no-brainer for me," Hartman said of sticking up for Kero. "I tried waiting long enough so it wasn't an instigator but it's kind of a judgment call I guess, some refs call it different ways. Unfortunately it ended up in a power play for them, but it's something you've got to do."
Hartman said he and the official had a discussion about the instigator penalty for clarity, which was handed to him due to the distance traveled after the hit.
Hartman said after the game that he respects the decision, but teammates and coaches didn't necessarily agree with the call.
"Thought they both had an agreement," Jonathan Toews said of the fight. "It looked like they were both going to go at it. Don’t think Hartsy jumped him by any means. But I guess just because there’s a previous hit immediately before that, then he got the instigator there."
Said Joel Quenneville: "I don't necessarily know that he was going to start the fight. I think he went over there to talk to the guy, so you lose Hartsy there."
And it proved to be the turning point.
Less than two minutes later, the Oilers capitalized on the power play after Matt Benning's shot ricocheted off Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk's skate and into the net, putting Edmonton out in front first.
They wouldn't look back, hanging on to beat the Blackhawks 3-1, and getting revenge on a team that beat them last week 5-1 in their first game out of the bye.
While it may not have been an opportune time to do it, the Blackhawks appreciate Hartman's game and know more times than not, his energy will result in a positive outcome.
"We haven’t seen a lot of fights this year so, no matter what, it always gets us going, especially in our own building," Toews said. "I think the fans love that sort of thing, too, and Hartsy’s been going after guys who are a lot bigger than him this year. We love that fearless play and definitely helps our guys feed off it."
"Hartsy's a competitive guy," Quenneville said. "We like him to have that a little bit of abrasiveness and unpredictably so there's nothing wrong with that. We like the way he competes and what he brings us."