NHL: Blackhawks continue playoff push with OT win
By Tim Cronin
CHICAGO (AP) — Duncan Keith is a two-time Norris Trophy winner because of his defense, not his scoring skills.
This night was different. When the Blackhawks needed it most, Keith played the role of power forward perfectly Sunday.
The veteran defenseman’s goal 1:23 into overtime gave Chicago a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in a matchup of Western Conference playoff contenders.
Keith took a feed from Brandon Saad, bulled his way down left wing, shrugged off a check from Nathan MacKinnon and beat goaltender Philipp Grubauer between the legs to snap the Blackhawks’ three-game losing streak.
“I don’t score too many overtime goals but I think MacKinnon was coming down and I was trying not to get embarrassed there because he’s a pretty good player,” Keith said. “I had the jump on him so I was trying to maybe pull it to my backhand. I saw that I wasn’t going to have enough room so I just tried to slam it at the net as hard I could.”
Chicago pulled within five points of Colorado for the second wild card in the West, one night after the Avalanche beat the Blackhawks in the first game of their home-and-home set.
“It was pretty much a must-win game, especially after losing the last one against these guys,” Keith said.
Artem Anisimov had a power-play goal for the Blackhawks, tying it 1-all early in the third period. Corey Crawford made 19 saves.
Alexander Kerfoot scored on a 5-on-3 power play for the Avalanche, who had won four straight.
“It was really important, especially against that team,” Anisimov said. “They’re ahead of us. Got to get that extra point. There’s not much time left so every game’s important, but we just go one by one.”
Colorado has 81 points in the final wild-card spot. Arizona and Minnesota have 79, and Chicago has 76, with a game in hand on Colorado and Minnesota.
For the Avalanche, it was a squandered chance to put more distance between them and their pursuers.
“I don’t want to blow this one too much out of proportion,” coach Jared Bednar said. “I know our guys are tired tonight, and I know it’s no excuse, because they played back-to-back as well, but we’ve been on a busy stretch and running some guys for some hard minutes.
“It wasn’t our best performance. We’ll get rid of this game and get ready for our next one. You’ve got to be on top of your game, and we learned that here tonight.”
Kerfoot opened the scoring with Colorado’s second 5-on-3 goal in two games. He deflected Tyson Barrie’s slap shot past Crawford with 4:34 left in the second period while Marcus Kruger and Jonathan Toews were in the penalty box.
Chicago tied it on Anisimov’s goal 1:44 into the third. Anisimov moved to the slot after winning the faceoff from Carl Soderberg and deflected Brent Seabrook’s slap shot from the point past Grubauer. It was Chicago’s second power-play goal in 11 games.
Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton was as much relieved as anything.
“We’re in a spot where we’re desperate. You can respond in different ways to that and I really liked how we responded tonight,” Colliton said. “We found a different level, a lot of pressure on the puck, forced them to play D-zone. We defended really well.”
The Avalanche controlled play early, with Sven Andrighetto hitting the post 65 seconds in, but the Blackhawks gradually took over. They forced Grubauer to make 40 stops, including a brilliant glove save on Toews with 3:26 remaining in regulation.
Colorado didn’t get a shot in overtime. The Avalanche controlled play for the first 50 seconds, but Chicago took control of the puck after a battle on the boards and it eventually came to Saad, who found Keith open on the left side.
NOTES: Colorado is 11-5-2 in its last 18 games. … Chicago is 9-7-1 in its past 17 after going 10-2 to climb into the playoff race. … Colorado LW Gabriel Landeskog (upper body) missed his eighth straight game. … Chicago C Drake Caggiula (concussion) missed his 11th consecutive game. … Chicago juggled its line combinations, putting a slumping Alex DeBrincat back with Toews and Patrick Kane. They combined for 15 shots but no points.
Avalanche: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday night.
Blackhawks: At the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night.