The Blackhawks picked up right where they left off before the All-Star break on Saturday night, earning a desperately needed victory against a team in which they are currently battling for a playoff spot.

After missing his last seven games with a right ankle sprain, Dylan Strome returned to lineup and Corey Crawford got the start against the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes were four points ahead of the Hawks heading into the game.

Brandon Saad ignited the Hawks by scoring the first two goals of the game, continuing his resurgent season by scoring his fourth goal in the four games since returning from his own right-ankle injury.

With just over eight minutes left in the opening frame, Saad would break the stalemate on a nice rush with rookie Kirby Dach, who charged up-ice and screened ex-Blackhawk goalie Antti Raanta. By assisting on the goal, Patrick Kane increased his current point streak to 12 games, which is currently the longest active streak in the NHL.

Saad would score his second goal of the game early in the middle frame, fluttering a shot past Raanta for the 2-0 lead — but the Coyotes would not go quietly.

Brad Richardson would put Arizona on the board after Corey Crawford’s rebound deflected right to the veteran center, who chipped the puck top-shelf, cutting the Hawks’ lead in half. Conor Garland would net the equalizer late in the second, blazing up-ice from the Coyotes’ zone to wrist a perfectly placed shot over Crawford’s left shoulder.

With the score still knotted early in the third period, Saad would come a skate-blade-inch away from registering his hat-trick. After Raanta had completely lost his net and was lying flat on his belly, Saad backhanded the puck toward the seemingly open-cage, only for Raanta to miraculously kick his left skate up and deflect the shot away.

After an evenly matched third period and an overtime frame that required both goaltenders to keep their teams alive, it was perhaps fitting that a shootout was required.

With ex-goalie Raanta in net for the shootout, the advantage would go to shooters Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Both Toews and Kane employed identical approaches, starting with speed only to put the brakes on in-close to freeze Raanta, who was 0-2 in the shootout. Unlike Toews and Kane, ex-Blackhawk Nick Schmaltz was unable to take advantage against his former goalie, as Crawford stymied both Arizona attempts to lock down the victory. Crawford finished the game with 40 saves on 42 shots and a .952 save percentage.

The win was critical as the Blackhawks continue their climb in the Western Conference standings, going 6-1 in their last seven games. With the trade deadline rapidly approaching on February 24th, the Hawks are right back in the playoff mix, sitting just three points out of the last Wild Card spot currently occupied by Arizona. This month, the Blackhawks will play all but three games on the road — with the next few weeks marking a critical stretch that will undoubtedly determine whether general manager Stan Bowman will look to buy, sell, or stand pat at the deadline.

With Dylan Strome, Brandon Saad, and Drake Caggiula recently reinserted in the lineup, the only other Hawk player currently out of the lineup is forward Andrew Shaw, who is still suffering from a concussion. There is no timeline on Shaw, but technically he is still eligible to return this year — unlike defensemen Brent Seabrook and Calvin de Haan, who will both miss the remainder of the season due to surgeries.


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