They were still whiffing on open shots, the power play's issues continued and they didn't look all that energized in a rapid response to an ugly 3-0 road loss to the Carolina Hurricanes the night before. It looked like the Central Division-leading Blackhawks were waiting for somebody to snap them out of it -- and luckily for them, Viktor Stalberg did so the third period, just in time to spark a 5-2 win at the United Center against the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets.
In a game that featured a combined total of four disallowed goals (three for Chicago on the power play), Stalberg's first two goals of the season counted and turned a 2-2 tie into a self-righting lift for the Hawks (6-2-2).
"We've got a little more swagger this year (in third periods)," Stalberg said. "We're feeling like we're going to get out there and get that goal (to win) instead of sitting back like maybe we did last year. It seems like we're finding ways to battle back and get those go-ahead goals."
It didn't take long to get the go-ahead goal this time. Stalberg's first of the season came just 4:26 into the third -- and less than a minute after Chicago had its second power-play goal of the game called off because of a delayed penalty.
That made it 3-2, and another tally by Stalberg just 1:58 later finally gave the Hawks some breathing room. Backup goalie Ray Emery started and made 27 saves, including several big ones in the third to keep the Hawks' margin at two goals.
Nick Leddy (two assists) and Michael Frolik (an assist and an empty-net goal) also had two-point games for Chicago, which hosts Nashville on Monday before playing four of the next five on the road.
That's what made this one such a big win, having stemmed whatever it was that came over them the night before. It wasn't easy, especially with all the disallowed goals. The Hawks nearly had a two-goal cushion in the second when Patrick Kane swatted a rebound of his own shot out of mid-air into the net. It wasn't allowed, however, because his stick was too high off the ice. A video review upheld the call and not long afterward Columbus tied it 2-2 on a goal by Derek Mackenzie that gave the Blue Jackets (1-9-1) a little momentum heading into the second intermission.
After Stalberg's goals, Chicago's Dave Bolland had the Hawks' third disallowed goal of the night during a power play in the third. After missing on a snap shot from close range, Bolland kicked the puck into the net with his left skate and another video review upheld the call on the ice.
Columbus' Derick Brassard then had one taken away, which would've made it a one-goal game.
"That's one of those things you don't see every day," Stalberg said. "(Andrew Brunette's) been in the League a long time and he said that's the most goals he's ever seen disallowed. Obviously we'd have liked to have one or two of them, but we got the two points and that's the biggest thing."
Aside from Stalberg, the Hawks got first-period goals from Swedish rookie Marcus Kruger and Bolland – his fifth of the season and second shorthanded. Kruger's gave Chicago a 1-0 lead just 2:51 into the game and was the first of his NHL career.
His dad was also in the building to see it.
"It was a great feeling to get the first one," said Kruger, a late-season addition last season after coming straight from the Swedish Elite League. "Hopefully I don't have to wait that long for my next one. In training camp, I think I put a little too much pressure on myself. I just need to go out there and play my game. That's how you play good hockey."
Vinny Prospal scored the other goal for Columbus, about three minutes after Kruger's tally in the first, to tie it 1-1. That set the stage for Bolland's breakaway goal during a Columbus power play that he slid past rookie goaltender Allen York -- making his first NHL start -- while being pulled to the ice.
The first two periods, however, were largely forgettable. It wasn't exactly the way Quenneville hoped his team would respond from Friday night's debacle, but the third period was a welcome sight.
"We had a nice little roll going (to start the season), but then (Friday) night's game was tough to figure out," Quenneville said. "Certain areas we've been very happy with, but I think offensively our production will be better and our team game will improve once we start clicking on the (power play)."
Statistically speaking, it can't get much worse than Chicago's scuffling power play. After going 0 for 5 on Saturday night, the numbers are only going to drop in terms of production with the extra skater – despite all three of the Hawks' disallowed goals coming with the man advantage.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, are having a lot more problems than just their special teams. They're off to the franchise's worst start to a season and still have a spate of injury woes.
They were also right in this game for about 44 minutes before Stalberg broke it open in the third after a couple of Columbus miscues.
"I think it's close to seven games now we've been tied 2-2," Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. "This one tonight, going into the third period they were giving up just as many chances as we were and at the end of the day we made mistakes. Two mistakes quickly in the third period cost us the hockey game."