After a disappointing loss to the Predators on Monday, the Blackhawks absolutely needed a win on Wednesday to keep their playoff hopes alive. After falling behind 4-1 early in the third period, the Blackhawks scored four unanswered goals to take the crucial two points.
Playoff Atmosphere, High Pace
The Blackhawks and Predators combined for 27 shots in the first period, but it was the Blackhawks who got on the board first.
Vinnie Hinostroza, who now has seven points in eight games since re-joining the Blackhawks at the trade deadline, stripped the puck from last year’s Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi just inside the Predators’ blue line.
Hinostroza has brought a competitiveness to the Blackhawks’ lineup they have lacked at times this season, and this play directly translated to the game’s first goal.
Brandon Hagel picked up the puck off the turnover and fed fellow rookie Pius Suter, who buried his 13th goal of the season. Suter is now tied for third-most goals by a rookie in the NHL this season.
Unfortunately, the Predators eventually broke through late in the first period to knot the game at one goal apiece. It was the result of another defensive breakdown by the Blackhawks. The defense left a guy all alone in front of the net, leaving Malcolm Subban with no chance of making the save.
Subban Stands Tall, But Preds Pour it On
Malcolm Subban came in as relief in Monday’s loss and stopped all eight shots he faced. Head coach Jeremy Colliton insisted Subban earned the right to start tonight’s game and there’s no denying he made the right choice.
The Predators peppered Subban with shots early in the second period, but he stood tall as long as he could. In one stretch, Subban turned aside chance after chance, allowing his team to stay in a game they needed to win.
In the second period alone, the Predators recorded 14 shots on goal, 12 scoring chances and six high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.
The Predators beat Subban twice in the middle frame, but if it weren’t for his stellar play between the pipes, it could have easily been twice as much.
After two periods, the Blackhawks were trailing the Predators 3-1 and their already slim chance of making the playoffs was slipping away from them. It got even worse.
58 seconds into the third period, Luke Kunin scored to give the Predators a three-goal lead, while Connor Murphy’s rough night continued. Murphy was on-ice for all four of the Predators’ goals. He, along with Duncan Keith, have been the most important defensemen all season, but this might be one game he’d like to forget.
Cue the Comeback
Down by three, five points out of a playoff spot with nine games remaining in the season, the Blackhawks were at a crossroads. Either pack it in and prepare for next season, or score four straight goals to keep their season alive.
At the midway mark of the third period, the Blackhawks showed they still had life. Patrick Kane found rookie defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk sneaking back door and the 24-year-old tallied his third goal of the season to bring his team within two.
Just over a minute later, Vinnie Hinostroza joined the fun. He and Kirby Dach played a little give-and-go, leading to a tap-in goal by Hinostroza to make it a one-goal game with under nine minutes to play. It was Hinostroza’s first goal of the season and his first with the Blackhawks since 2018.
This marked the first time the Blackhawks scored more than two goals against the Predators this season. Not only did they put up three goals, but Dominik Kubalik scored his 15th of the season less than a minute after Hinostroza’s tally to tie the game at four goals apiece. The three goals came in a span of 2:51 and the Blackhawks only needed one more goal to complete the comeback.
Brandon Hagel Calls Game
Three minutes into the overtime period, Brandon Hagel roofed the game winner to cap off the comeback as the Blackhawks earned the ever-important second point.
The Blackhawks are now 22-20-5 and sit three points back of the Predators, who currently hold the fourth a final playoff spot with 52 points.
What’s On Tap Next?
The most important game to this point of the Blackhawks’ season is set for Friday at 7:00 PM CDT, when they play the Predators for the eighth and final time this season. The Hawks then have three days off before they welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning to town on Tuesday.