Given what the Chicago Blackhawks have produced on the ice across their last stretch, in regard to apparent effort level, offensive possession, their play in their own end, etc., morale was pretty low throughout the fanbase, and perhaps even in the locker room heading into Sunday evening's tilt with the Winnipeg Jets. Especially when you consider the fact that this Jets team has had the Hawks' number all season long.
While they certainly didn't play a perfect game, and many of the same issues were prevalent throughout this one, the Blackhawks were able to steal a win in the waning seconds, as hometown hero Jonathan Toews deflected a shot in the final 30 seconds in order to help the road team escape with the 4-3 victory. In doing so, the Hawks grab a pair of enormous points in order to continue to stave off Winnipeg, and draw within a point of Minnesota with two games in hand over the Wild.
The first period favored the Blackhawks in terms of shots, as they maintained a narrow edge in that department, as well as Corsi, but overall, it was an unimpressive frame. They were unable to maintain possession or sustain any sort of offensive attack until the tail end of the period. Despite their rough start, they found a bit of a rhythm later on, and combined with an Andrew Shaw power play goal, were somehow able to take a lead into the second period.
The middle frame boasted no shortage of action, as four goals were scored and four penalties taken. While the Corsi chart remained relatively even, Winnipeg was able to get a good deal more shots at the net, as they outshot the Blackhawks 15-8 for the frame. They netted a trio of goals, including the first of the period that came on a Dustin Byfuglien power play tally. Even worse for the Hawks, they surrendered a shorthanded goal for the second straight game, courtesy of Blake Wheeler.
The Hawks were able to get things evened back up, as Brad Richards netted the equalizer on a nice deflection, but Byfuglien added another in the closing seconds of the period, another one which came on the power play, to give the Jets the 3-2 lead going into the final period. Note about that goal: As much credit as I've given Kris Versteeg, this wasn't one of his finer moments. He skated in a circle in the middle of the defensive zone. That's it. He contributed nothing to the PK. Get Antoine Vermette out there if needed, Q.
While the overall numbers of the third didn't favor the Blackhawks, they were able to cash in when they needed to. Patrick Sharp took advantage of Tobias Enstrom losing his stick, courtesy of the referee, in order to score on the breakaway. I don't have to explain the significance of that actually happening to any of you.
The Jets were able to get a late power play on a trip courtesy of Michal Rozsival, but the Hawks PK, despite its rare off night, was able to kill it off. This one looked destined for overtime, until Jonathan Toews deflected home the winner off of the stick of Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Hawks were able to sustain some possession in the offensive zone, which allowed Toews to pass it back to Hjalmarsson for the open shot and the deflection. Again, not the prettiest of wins but it was a couple of points that the Blackhawks sorely needed.
The Blackhawks will turn right around and host the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night. The Kings, for the most part, have played extremely well (prior to getting housed against the Wild on Saturday night) and are just as in need of points in the standings as the Blackhawks are. This should be a playoff like atmosphere at the United Center and has the potential to be a helluva lot of fun. Or it could be a disaster. We'll see.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.