Blackhawks creep closer to playoff berth
Chicago beats Columbus, holds 3 point lead over Flames
There were dumb penalties, a blown two-goal lead and missed opportunities.
It ended up just fine, though, for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Viktor Stalberg had the only goal in the shootout and Corey Crawford made 31 saves in the defending Stanley Cup champs' 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
"Nothing wrong with that, we'll take anything we can get right now," coach Joel Quenneville said after enumerating everything that had gone wrong. "When you're down late in the game, it turns out to be a huge win for us."
The two points were precious for the Blackhawks, holding eighth in the Western Conference, the last position for a playoff spot. The win allowed them to maintain their three-point lead over ninth-place Calgary, which also won Friday night.
For a team trailing by a goal with just over five minutes left in regulation, the win could end up being particularly memorable in the tight playoff race.
"It's a big extra point for us in the standings," Stalberg said.
The sixth shooter overall, Stalberg improved to 2-for-2 in shootouts this season. He swooped in on Mathieu Garon, faked and stuck a backhand into the net.
"So far, so good, I guess," he said with a laugh. "We do it a lot in practice. I try to score as much as I can there. [Quenneville] asked me a couple of weeks ago if I wanted to go if we got a chance. We haven't had any shootouts since."
Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist and Brent Seabrook and Bryan Bickell also scored for Chicago.
Bickell's goal came with 5:03 remaining in the third period and Columbus leading 3-2. His shot from just in the offensive zone ricocheted off a defenceman's stick and surprised goalie Mathieu Garon.
"It's kind of funny, most of my goals come from out there. I was just trying to [create] a rebound there. Good things happen when you throw it on net," Bickell said. "It was a big clutch goal. To push it into overtime and then get it in the shootout — that's a big two points for us."
Derick Brassard, Maksim Mayorov (his first NHL goal) and Samuel Pahlsson scored for the Blue Jackets, Anton Stralman had career highs with three assists and points and Antoine Vermette added two assists.
Both teams were missing their leading goal scorers.
The Blackhawks were without Patrick Sharp, who has 34 goals. He missed his fifth game with a knee injury, but will be re-evaluated Sunday and is expected to play next week.
The Blue Jackets were without captain Rick Nash, who has 32, for the second straight night. He's day to day with an undisclosed lower-body injury. They also did not have top goalie Steve Mason, who sustained a minor injury in a 4-3 overtime loss at Washington on Thursday night. Garon had 23 saves.
Columbus, all but out of the playoff race for several weeks, dropped to 5-8 in shootouts.
"These guys learn how to play in pressure-packed situations," Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said of his lineup, stocked with young players. "It's unfortunate we've lost so many shootout games, but we've done a great job of learning how to play under pressure."