CHICAGO - Tomas Fleischmann can't really remember the last time he had a hat trick -- he guesses that it occurred about six years ago, in juniors.
This one he'll probably remember a lot longer, even though the Colorado Avalanche forward tried his best to play it cool after his first NHL hat trick paved the way to a 4-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night at the United Center.
"I'm happy we won the game," said Fleischmann, who potted all three goals in the third period to lift the Avs (17-10-4) to their fourth straight win. "That's all that matters."
While that might be true, Fleischmann's hot stick since coming to Colorado in a Nov. 30 trade with the Washington Capitals is making that deal matter quite a bit in the Western Conference standings - where the Avs now have 38 points.
That includes four points earned in back-to-back wins against the Blackhawks (16-14-3) this week, both games in which Fleischmann played key roles. Playing on a line with center Matt Duchene and forward Ryan Jones, Fleischmann has 5 goals and 10 points in seven games with the Avs.
"I think he is the type of player that needs to play with skilled players," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "It's a fresh start for him, a start over, and things are going well for him right now."
It was Fleischmann on Monday at the Pepsi Center in Denver who sparked a remarkable late 7-5 comeback win against the Hawks by scoring the game-tying goal and setting up the winner. This time, he helped Colorado take advantage of a double minor high-sticking call on Chicago's Jordan Hendry 2:40 into the third period.
At that point, it was still 1-1 though the Hawks had outshot Colorado 30-12 through the first two periods. Fleischmann scored late in each power play to give the Avs a 3-1 lead.
The goals took the life out of the United Center until Hawks captain Jonathan Toews cut it to 3-2 at 9:37 with his 14th goal of the season and 15th point in the last 13 games. But 5:05 later, Fleischmann restored the Avs' two-goal cushion with his third goal of the game and ninth of the season.
"Those two power-play goals were the difference in the game," Sacco said. "You need your power-play to step up when you have an opportunity like we did."
On his first goal, Fleischmann redirected a perfect pass by Paul Stastny into an empty net behind Hawks goalie Corey Crawford to make it 2-1 at 4:30 of the third. He then backhanded in a rebound with Crawford sprawled on the ice at 6:24. On Fleischmann's third goal, Ryan Jones negated a potential icing call and kept the play alive. The puck came right to Fleischmann near the net and he buried it at 14:42.
It was Fleischmann's fourth goal and sixth point in the home-and-home set against Chicago - which fell to 0-2-1 against Colorado this season. Fleischmann was asked if there was something about the Hawks' style of play that catered to his game, but he had no answer.
"It's (only) like my third game against them, and the last game I showed up just for the last 2:00," said Fleischmann, whose only down stat of the game was a minus-1 rating. "It's tough to say. It was just one of those nights where everything was going our way, especially on the power play in the third period."
Speaking of which, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville took exception to the call on Hendry after watching a replay after the game. Still, he was disappointed that his penalty-killing units didn't get the job done.
"They scored late in both penalties and I didn't see the play," Quenneville said. "I just looked at the replay and I totally disagree with the call, but we've still got to get through that."
It also would've been nice to get an early lead with a brief 5-on-3 power play early in the first, but Avs goalie Craig Anderson and the Colorado defense killed it off to keep the game scoreless. Anderson made 35 saves shots and played much better than he did in Monday's 7-5 win.
Crawford started for the Hawks and allowed four goals on 23 shots.
Greg Mauldin scored Colorado's other goal, while Bryan Bickell and Troy Brouwer had Chicago's other goals -- with Brouwer scoring his ninth of the season and third in the past two games with just 0.5 seconds left.
The loss left the Hawks again deflated and searching for answers after getting just one point out of their past three games - all of which were winnable.
"You can say there's one bad game out of three, but at the end of the day we only have one point in our last three games, and what good is that?" Toews said. "You can talk all day about doing good things out there and working for chances and working around the net and giving those second efforts, but it just doesn't cut it when you don't get the results that you want. It's pretty frustrating and one of those nights when nothing clicks for you."
Even worse, Chicago lost another forward to injury when Viktor Stalberg left late in the second period with an upper-body injury and didn't return. Stalberg was smashed into the corner boards by Avs defenseman Ryan O'Byrne, who was assessed a boarding minor.
The Hawks, who went 0-for-3 on power plays, couldn't convert the man-advantage into a goal before Fleischmann took over in the third.
|Greg Mauldin (5) ASST: Daniel Winnik (7), Adam Foote (4)|
1 - 0 COL
|Bryan Bickell (8) ASST: Brent Seabrook (15), Duncan Keith (19)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Tomas Fleischmann (7) ASST: Paul Stastny (19), Matt Duchene (20)|
2 - 1 COL
|PPG - Tomas Fleischmann (8) ASST: Matt Duchene (21), Kevin Shattenkirk (12)|
3 - 1 COL
|Jonathan Toews (14) ASST: Jassen Cullimore (5), Tomas Kopecky (15)|
3 - 2 COL
|Tomas Fleischmann (9) ASST: David Jones (8), Ryan O'Byrne (3)|
4 - 2 COL
|Troy Brouwer (9) ASST: Bryan Bickell (8), Brian Campbell (8)|
4 - 3 COL
|Brandon Yip Too many men/ice - bench|
|Philippe Dupuis Roughing against Jeremy Morin|
|Jake Dowell Holding against David Jones|
|David Jones Interference against Jake Dowell|
|Ryan O'Byrne Boarding against Viktor Stalberg|
|Bryan Bickell Hooking against Daniel Winnik|
|Jordan Hendry Hi stick - double minor against Daniel Winnik|