The Chicago Blackhawks had an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot on Thursday night, and they did just that as they used a third period rally to push past the Vancouver Canucks by a 3-1 margin at the United Center.
Jonathan Toews and Marcus Kruger got the goals for the Blackhawks in the third period, and Teuvo Teravainen scored his fourth goal of the season in the first period as the Hawks punched their ticket to the postseason for the seventh straight year. Corey Crawford made 35 saves in the victory, including a couple of big ones in the third period to help carry his team.
The game got off to a really nice start for the Blackhawks’ offense as they generated a slew of early opportunities. Kris Versteeg had the best chance of anyone in the opening five minutes as he received a long stretch pass from Niklas Hjalmarsson, but Vancouver goaltender Eddie Lack made the save and kept the game scoreless.
The Blackhawks kept the pressure on as the period wore on, and eventually it paid off. Left without his stick, Lack was all over the crease trying to keep the puck out of the net, but ultimately Teravainen picked up a loose rebound in the slot and calmly deposited it past the goaltender to make it a 1-0 game.
Near the midway point of the period the Blackhawks surrendered a four-minute power play to the Canucks thanks to an Antoine Vermette high-sticking penalty, but an Alex Burrows penalty helped to soften the blow later on and the defense did the rest as the Hawks killed it with relative ease.
It appeared that the Blackhawks were going to head to the intermission with a lead, but Michal Rozsival had other ideas. The defenseman tried a pass into the middle of the ice as he sat in the defensive zone, and it was immediately intercepted and Derek Dorsett did the rest as he potted a tally to tie things up at 1-1 through the first period of play.
The second period opened with both teams getting some chances on goal, but the Blackhawks continued to drive possession for the most part. Lack robbed both Brad Richards and Patrick Sharp early in the period, and even though the two teams exchanged power plays shortly thereafter, the game remained tied up.
The period ended with a few more chances for the Blackhawks, including a breakaway chance for Brandon Saad in the closing seconds. The winger was able to get in behind the defense, but he tried to pull one too many moves as he closed in on net and Lack made an easy save to keep the game at a 1-1 margin through two periods of play.
The third period saw the Blackhawks get an early power play, but despite some quality chances they couldn’t quite convert. Andrew Shaw had a great chance denied off a rebounded Marian Hossa shot, but Lack kicked out his leg pad to make the save. Duncan Keith also had a good shot on net to finish things off, but Lack was able to look past a Shaw screen just in time to stop it.
With 12 minutes left in the game, the Blackhawks grabbed the lead. On a weird play, Johnny Oduya rifled a shot in toward the net, and Hossa deflected the puck. It ultimately bounced off of the crossbar, but Toews was able to get his hands set and flipped the rebound into the net to make it a 2-1 game.
After Crawford made an incredible sliding save on Nick Bonino just a few minutes later, he was rewarded with another goal of support thanks to Kruger. Swiping the puck at center ice, Kruger flew back into the offensive zone and made a tremendous deke to beat Lack and give his team a 3-1 advantage that they would never relinquish.
The Blackhawks will hit the road on Friday night as they continue their push for the Central Division title in Buffalo against the lowly Sabres.