Colorado Avalanche

Behind the Numbers: Blackhawks stun Avalanche with third-period comeback win

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AP

Behind the Numbers: Blackhawks stun Avalanche with third-period comeback win

The Blackhawks put together a furious third-period comeback in Colorado on Saturday, scoring four unanswered goals in a span of 7:59 to stun the Avalanche in the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two Central Division foes after the Avalanche won the first three matchups by a combined score of 16-6.

It's the third win in four games for the Blackhawks, who had only three victories in their previous 13 games (3-8-2). 

Here's a deeper look inside the numbers of the 5-3 comeback win and other notable stats from the game:

— The Blackhawks won for the first time this season when trailing after two periods; they were 0-14-0 in their previous 14 chances. They also handed the Avalanche their first regulation loss when leading through 40 minutes of play after having a 17-0-1 record going into Saturday's contest.

— The Blackhawks had a three percent chance of winning at the halfway mark of the third period, according to Money Puck. After scoring two goals in 28 seconds to tie it at 3-3 with 8:10 left in regulation, their chances skyrocketed to 49.1 percent.

— Patrick Kane scored for the sixth time in five games and became the 11th player in NHL history to begin his career with at least 13 consecutive 20-plus goal seasons. Marcel Dionne, Jaromir Jagr and Mats Sundin lead the way with 17. Alex Ovechkin is at 15 and counting. 

— Jonathan Toews has three three-point efforts in his last eight games and four multi-point outings in the month of December. He had three multi-point games in October and November combined.

— Kane and Toews scored a goal in the same game for the 99th time. The Blackhawks are 87-7-5 in those games, and an additional 6-0 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, according to NBC Sports Chicago's Christopher Kamka.

— Dominik Kubalik became the third player on the Blackhawks to hit the double-digit mark in goals (10), joining Kane (20) and Brandon Saad (11). Only Buffalo's Victor Olofsson (16) has scored more goals than Kubalik (10) this season among NHL rookies, but Kubalik ranks No. 1 in even-strength tallies (eight).

— A weight has been lifted off the shoulders of Kirby Dach. He ended a 15-game point drought and 16-game goalless streak by scoring the game-tying goal in the third period. It was his first goal since Nov. 17.

— Connor Murphy has three goals this season. Two of them have been empty netters. The first one was from 180-feet out. And the second one from Saturday was from 175-feet out. 

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Injury-ridden Blackhawks in dire need of bounce-back win

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USA Today

Injury-ridden Blackhawks in dire need of bounce-back win

The Blackhawks must find a way to win and gain momentum before things spiral out of control. The Hawks, last place in the Central division after giving up 12 goals in their past past two games against the Avalanche, will face the defending Stanley Cup champions down a man with an injury-ridden roster.

The Blackhawks will be without Duncan Keith (groin), Drake Caggiula (concussion protocol), Dylan Strome (concussion protocol), Andrew Shaw (undergoing further evaluation) and Robin Lehner (flu), forcing them to play with just 11 forwards and six defensemen, due to salary cap restrictions, when they face the St. Louis Blues on Monday at the United Center. The Blues are first in the Central, six points ahead of the Avalanche. 

"Very impressive," Patrick Kane said of the Blues. "And then you look at their lineup, and they have a lot of injuries too. They obviously have a formula that works over there. Started with the back half of last year and then into the playoffs and winning, and then what they've done to start off this year is pretty impressive too. It'll be a tough matchup."

It's likely the Hawks will be missing some of those players when they head to Boston Thursday before going into New Jersey on Friday.

"We have to respond to adversity," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "To me, you can look at adversity as something you don’t want to have. No question, everyone would like it to be smooth all the time. But it’s an opportunity for us to take another step forward. We can develop as a team when you go through these stretches. I’d like for us not to miss this opportunity to respond. It can propel us forward."

"It's just like that all year," Kane said of the challenging games ahead. "You could've said the same thing about our last five, 10 games. It seems like we're traveling all over the place, playing some tough teams. It's definitely difficult being in the Central and the travel we have to deal with, but it is what it is and every team in our division has to go through it at some point."

The Bruins are first in the Atlantic division of the Eastern conference, 12 points ahead of the Panthers. New Jersey is last in the Metropolitan division.

Prior to Friday (5-2) and Saturday's (7-3) debacles against the Avalanche, the Hawks were getting great goaltending and finding ways to win, going 5-2-1 in their previous eight games, including a 3-0 shutout of the Stars in Chicago with Crawford in net on Tuesday.

"We've played some good hockey, Jonathan Toews said following Monday's morning skate. "I think we played a good road game in Dallas, we played good at home against Dallas. Since then we've maybe taken a few steps back, so I think it's time to bounce back tonight. The areas where we need to be better are pretty obvious, so we'll do our best to correct that."

Big numbers 

Toews is slated to become the 10th player to skate in 900 games with the Blackhawks on Monday.

"Oh, it's tonight?" Toews asked with a smile. "I think it's special to hit certain marks. I don't think you ever go out there every single night thinking about that, unless your 'Kaner and it happens every 20 games or something. You look at 'Seabs and 'Duncs and it doesn't feel like we've been here for that long, but then you look back to clips over the years and you go, 'Time really has flown by.' 

"It's special and I think when you're going through the same routine almost every year with training camp, [coming] to the United Center... It's not that you take it for granted, but it does in some way become a routine.

"So every time you're able to hit a milestone like games played or points, or whatever it is, it's definitely a moment to stop and say, 'Hey this is pretty special and I can be thankful for what I've been a part of and what I've been given, especially playing here in Chicago for the fans and for this team."

Kane will be looking to extend his 15-game point streak (24 points; 11 goals, 13 assists) on Monday. 

"You just know the number," Kane said of streaks. "Other than that, you try to put that in the back of your mind and go out there and play the same way. It's nice when you're consistent and on a little run, but every game you try to treat as a new slate, and produce scoring chances, produce chances for yourself, and play the right way, and hopefully those things take care of itself." 

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Reality check: Blackhawks look like a team still trying to find its way

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AP

Reality check: Blackhawks look like a team still trying to find its way

The Blackhawks were sniffing a playoff spot at American Thanksgiving, trailing the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference by only one point from a points percentage standpoint. And they were coming off back-to-back contests in which they took three of four points from the hottest team in the NHL in the Dallas Stars, including a 3-0 shutout victory at the United Center on Tuesday.

But a home-and-home series this weekend against a decimated but speedy Colorado Avalanche team was a real opportunity for the Blackhawks to show their stripes and they weren’t competitive in either of the two games.

The Blackhawks looked outmatched in every facet despite what the numbers showed, and the early holes they dug themselves did them no favors. They uncharacteristically gave up six combined first-period goals after allowing only 15 in their first 24 games (which was the second-fewest in the league), and were outscored 12-5 total in the two games.

It didn’t help that the Blackhawks were without Duncan Keith (groin injury) in Saturday’s 7-3 loss, but the issues went deeper than that. They were at least a step slow to every 50-50 race, didn't win many board battles and failed to capitalize on their chances unlike the Avalanche.

Where the Blackhawks could have changed the complexion of the game was towards the end of the first period, when they were awarded a 5-on-3 power play for 58 seconds, and the start of the second period when they had a 5-on-4 advantage for 2:27. They generated several quality opportunities but couldn’t cash in, and after the Avalanche killed off those penalties they scored 15 seconds later to extend their lead to three. They didn’t look back from there.

The Blackhawks have relied on Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner all season long to bail them out in key situations, but at some point it needs to be reciprocated by the 18 skaters in front of them. Lehner gave up five goals on 14 shots for a save percentage of .643 before head coach Jeremy Colliton made a goalie swap to spark his team, which isn't a bag he likes to reach into. In this case, he had no choice.

The Blackhawks started November by picking up at least a point in eight out of a possible nine games for record of 6-1-2. Since then, they're 1-4-1 and their mini home-and-home series against Colorado served as a reality check.

"It's just time to look ourselves in the mirror and just do the right thing is what it's all about," Lehner told reporters. "It's on us as players to do the right things."

The Avalanche looked like a Stanley Cup contender this weekend. The Blackhawks looked like a team still trying to find its way.

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