It appeared that the Chicago Blackhawks were going to be heading to overtime for the second night in a row, but Ben Smith had other plans as he scored with 3.8 seconds remaining to give the Hawks a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Jeremy Morin also picked up goals for the Hawks in the victory, and Antti Raanta bounced back from his early struggles in the game to make 24 saves in the winning effort.
The game got off to an awful start for the Blackhawks, as the Jackets picked up several good opportunities early and eventually capitalized. Columbus swung out on a 3-on-2 rush, but RJ Umberger was able to get inside position and fired a shot on net. Raanta stopped it, but Derek MacKenzie dove toward the rebound and was able to pound it home as the Jackets grabbed a 1-0 lead just over a minute into the game.
As the period wore on, the Jackets continued to rack up shots, but Raanta was able to stop all of them. James Wisniewski one-timed a shot from the point that Raanta fought off, and then Boone Jenner got back-to-back chances on the doorstep, but the Hawks’ goaltender stood tall to keep the game at 1-0. The Hawks did get a few chances of their own, with Marian Hossa finding Andrew Shaw sitting at the top of the crease, but the forward pushed the shot just wide of the cage as Columbus retained the lead.
With less than three minutes left in the period, the Blackhawks shocked the Columbus crowd and tied the game up. After getting the puck in the neutral zone off a pass from Michal Rozsival, Morin drove into the offensive zone and after waiting for Shaw to get to the front of the net to provide a screen, he blasted a shot just past Sergei Bobrovsky’s right pad to tie the game at 1-1 late in the frame.
The game remained tied through the end of the first period, but the Hawks surrendered a goal less than a minute into the second to give Columbus back the lead. On a bad line change by the visitors, Ryan Johansen picked up the puck along the boards, and fired a quick wrist shot. The shot ended up going just over Raanta’s glove, and after it got under the crossbar, the cannon sounded and Columbus grabbed a 2-1 lead.
Less than four minutes later, the Blackhawks tied things back up. After getting a power play thanks to an interference penalty against Jared Boll, the Hawks moved the puck quickly around the zone, and when Duncan Keith’s pass across the ice found Sharp at the blue line, the sniper fired in a sizzling shot that Bobrovsky couldn’t handle, and in a flash the game was tied at 2-2.
The Blackhawks really started to push the tempo of the game after that goal, and a little over halfway into the second period, they took their first lead of the game. After Hossa got in behind the defense, he was the recipient of a gorgeous pass off the stick of Kris Versteeg, and the 35-year old Hossa didn’t miss on the ensuing deke as he fooled Bobrovsky and slid the puck into the net to give Chicago a 3-2 lead.
Just as the Hawks had done repeatedly in the game, the Blue Jackets were quick to respond, and tied things up two minutes later. This time, it was Columbus on the power play after Nick Leddy was sent off for slashing, and after Wisniewski found Artem Anisimov on the near side of the net, the Jackets’ forward didn’t miss, banking in a shot off of Niklas Hjalmarsson to tie the game up at 3-3.
After all of the scoring, the goaltenders on both sides of the ice really stood tall for the remaining 27 minutes of regulation. Raanta made a great save late in the second period after Ryan Murray’s shot bounced off of Shaw, but the Finnish-born Raanta was able to slide across the net and kick the puck away. At the beginning of the third period, it was Bobrovsky’s turn, as he made three consecutive saves to keep the game tied. Brandon Saad got the first chance, and then Smith made a diving rebound attempt that Bobrovsky stopped. Finally, Versteeg got one last chance on a wraparound, but the Vezina-winning goaltender kicked across and made the big save.
Both teams still got more saves as the period wore on. Matt Calvert swiped an errant pass from Brandon Bollig at the defensive blue line, but Raanta was able to stop the ensuing breakaway attempt. A few minutes later, Morin nearly had his second goal of the game, but Bobrovsky somehow read the shot perfectly and smothered it to keep Columbus in the game.
With less than 10 seconds remaining in the third period, the Blackhawks stunned the Columbus crowd again and took the lead. After a Seabrook shot hit traffic in front, Keith fired in another shot that hit the same traffic. The puck evaded Bobrovsky’s glove as he dove for it though, and Smith was able to get his stick on it and slide it towards the net. The shot barely had enough gas on it, and Bobrovsky couldn’t get past Peter Regin in the crease as the Hawks took a 4-3 lead with less than four seconds remaining.
The Hawks will look to make it three wins in a row on Sunday afternoon when they tangle with the St. Louis Blues at the United Center.