The Blackhawks have unofficially moved into do-or-die mode.
After losing 3-0 to the Nashville Predators on Saturday, the Blackhawks suffered their 10th regulation loss in 14 games and fell out of the No. 4 spot in the Central Division. They were sitting comfortably in a playoff position less than one month prior.
On Tuesday, the Blackhawks got back on track by knocking off the Dallas Stars 4-2 at the United Center and, most importantly, did so in regulation.
"It was the biggest game of the season so far," Kevin Lankinen said. "Every game going forward is going to be like a playoff game for us, and we approached with that mentality and that showed tonight. We came in hard and we played really well and definitely deserved to win."
The line of Kirby Dach, Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane combined for three goals and two assists, and Lankinen stopped 25 of 27 shots for a save percentage of .926 in the win. It was a solid all-around victory, although the Blackhawks probably would've liked to close things out cleaner after giving up two third-period goals, including a shorthanded one for the second straight contest.
"I was really happy with our approach tonight," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I thought we responded in a lot of different ways to the challenge and nice that we were rewarded for the work that we put in.
"That was a big step for our group and a big game. I thought the top line was fantastic. I thought a lot of our guys took another step as far as their work ethic and hardness on the puck and attention to details and that’s what we need."
The Blackhawks didn't gain any ground in the playoff race because the Predators also picked up two points, but they didn't lose any ground, either. They're still within arm's reach with 16 games left to go.
The Blackhawks are also hitting a crucial point of their schedule where they're slated to face three other teams that are battling for the final spot as well. These have the potential to be four-point swings like Tuesday was for the Blackhawks.
Kane said as much before the game, telling the team that the Blackhawks should have a playoff-type mentality from here on out. And that's exactly where they want to be.
"You don’t have to look too deep underneath that statement," Colliton said. "That’s the reality of it. We should be excited about the chance to play in these types of games. We’re in a great position.
"If you go into training camp and you told this group, based on everything being said and expectations all, that that we’d be in this position with so many home games and so many head-to-head matchups, a lot of guys have done well and developed a lot. Individually and as a team and as an organization, we’re right where we want to be and now we’ve got to seize the moment. Kaner, he said that in the room, but then he came out and delivered as well. And I think a lot of other guys rose to the challenge."