The Chicago Blackhawks found a new way to win Friday night, scrambling in the final 20 minutes for a pair of goals to stun the Montreal Canadiens, 4-3. This was far from the team's best performance of the season, as reflected by Montreal's 41-36 shot advantage, but it's the latest example of a group that's found some rhythm after early hiccups.
The first period of the game was mostly kind to Chicago, as the 'Hawks rolled out to a 2-0 lead before Brendan Gallagher slapped one past Antti Raanta to cut the lead in half just before intermission. The game felt like it could go either way at that point, and the Canadiens quickly made sure things were swinging in their direction.
Less than eight minutes into the second period, Sergei Gonchar scored his first goal of the season by beating Raanta on a open look from the circle. The goaltender had a solid look at the puck and probably should've stopped it, but let it squeeze through to tie the game.
Minutes later, P.K. Subban took advantage of a questionable penalty on Patrick Kane to score a power play goal, giving the Canadiens a 3-2 lead with just over a period remaining. But alas, the final 20 minutes continue to be Chicago's time to shine, and Friday was the latest example of a team that's consistently outworked opponents in the third period.
Jonathan Toews scored the game-tying goal via an easy rebound on the power play, then Brandon Saad put things away in the final 30 seconds with an incredible goal as things were headed to overtime.
WE SHALL TAKE ALL YOUR FORTUNATE BOUNCES AND WIN HOCKEY GAMES https://t.co/2i6rwcFHrT— Second City Hockey (@2ndCityHockey) December 6, 2014
The Canadiens scrambled from there to pull Carey Price -- who was absolutely awesome most of the game -- and force some chances, but couldn't get one past Raanta before the buzzer expired.
The victory bumps the Blackhawks into second place in the Central Division, one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues and one point behind the first-place Nashville Predators. There's a chance to take the division lead Saturday night with a road matchup in Nashville, so hopefully the team can get to the top and stay there for a while.
3. Antti Raanta
I called him out a little bit after the questionable second goal, but Raanta settled in for a pretty solid performance Friday night against a talented Canadiens team. The goaltender finished 38-of-41 on save opportunities, good for a .927 save percentage, and made a number of saves that got me off the couch, including a couple breakaways and that corral in the final seconds. He's far from perfect, but the same can be said for every backup, and right now, Raanta's more than a serviceable option.
2. Brandon Saad
If you score the game-winning goal in the last 30 seconds, you're an automatic star. Saad wasn't as active throughout this game as some other players, including the guy listed below him here, but he was in the right place at the right time for arguably the most important play of the game.
1. Jonathan Toews
He's the captain and we expect a lot out of him every single night, but sometimes I'm still amazed at the impact Toews can have on a game. He played an astonishing 22 minutes, 21 seconds on Friday night -- only Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook played more -- and scored the pivotal game-tying goal in the third period. He also dished an assist and had his usual impact on the defensive end, while winning the majority of his faceoffs. The Canadiens aren't one of the league's elite teams up the middle, but Toews took a relatively favorable matchup and capitalized with another strong performance. We've been gushing about Kane so much lately; now it's Toews' turn.