CHICAGO--Bounces are part of the game of hockey, and the Colorado Avalanche seemed to have received the short straw on one on Sunday night.
Midway through the third period, it appeared as if Richard Panik had brought the puck into the Colorado end before teammate Jonathan Toews could round back across the blue line and get back onside. The Chicago captain didn't make it before the puck entered the zone, but play continued and Toews tallied soon after on a redirection.
"We saw it on the ice, [that's] what we thought, but then the video we saw, the puck's coming in over the line and their guy's carrying it and Toews was short of the line coming out," said Avs head coach Jared Bednar. "We had that view right away. So that's what I saw."
Video replays appeared to confirm that Toews was on the wrong of the blue line on the play, and the Avalanche challenged for offsides. After a lengthy review, the on-ice officials confirmed the goal on the ice and the United Center erupted once again.
It was a tough break for Colorado, but what Bednar really disliked about the call was how his team responded after it.
"I guess I don't necessarily fully understand it, but it's a tag-up rule," Bednar said. "They were saying [the puck] wasn't on his stick. That is what it is. For me, it's 3-2, nine and a half minutes to go, that gives them a little life. It's what we do after that bothers me. That call for me is the least of what bugs me of the way that game finished."
Toews' tip-in goal was the start of a scoring spree that featured three tallies in 34 seconds, and the Blackhawks quickly went from down by two to up by one. Chicago added two more in the final period, including an empty-netter with two seconds remaining to take a 6-3 victory.
"Every play matters," Bednar said. "So we have a turnover at the offensive blue line, it ends up in the back of our net. We don't reload quick enough on the forecheck, it ends up in the back of our net. We get caught on three or four odd-man rushes in the end of the game, and they all end up in the back of our net. There's no real secret to it."
The Blackhawks' comeback is proof of the club's resilience and a prime reason why they're looking for their fourth Stanley Cup in eight seasons. Chicago is now riding a five-game winning streak and holds a comfortable lead atop the Central Division and Western Conference.
"They're dangerous and you can't give them anything," said Avalanche forward J.T. Compher. "You got to stay on top of their guys. Can't give them too much time and space, and when you do they can score in bunches like you saw tonight."
The Avs had entered the third period with a 3-1 lead after scoring three straight and were playing some decent hockey. Colorado was getting good looks in the offensive end and did a solid job of not allowing too many Chicago passes to get through the slot on the defensive side of things.
"I thought we scored some timely goals. We spent a little bit of time in our zone on a couple of occasions, but I thought we kept them to the perimeter and kept our scoring chances down," Bednar said of his team's play prior to the 10:17 mark of the third. "You can see they're dangerous off the rush and were trying to sneak guys in behind us. So our guys were aware of that. They handled that pretty well, and then at the other end we did a decent job of creating some scoring chances, even late in the second period."
But then the Blackhawks scored, and things started spiraling down quickly.
"They got a lot of experience and [are] a good team, and we talked about in between periods [how] we're not going to sit back, they're going to come at us," said defenseman Mark Barberio. "For us, I thought we played the game not to lose instead of trying to play to win, and that's what happens against a team like that."
Was the video review a game changer? Maybe, but the Hawks came out of the second intermission strong and were maintaining zone time in the Avs' end prior to Toews' goal.
"They started rolling. They started getting momentum, and I think maybe we were sitting back even more," Barberio said. "We were just kind of watching them play instead of being a part of the game, and again they've got championship players on that team and they've won some cups for a reason."
Mikhail Grigorenko scored twice in a game for the first time in an Avalanche sweater on Sunday night and for the second time in his young career.
The only other time that the 22-year-old had tallied two goals in a contest was Nov. 8, 2013 at Anaheim when he was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
Grigroenko's goal total is now at nine for the season. Prior to the present campaign, the Russian's previous high came last year when he tallied six.
COMPHER'S RETURN HOME
Rookie J.T. Compher had quite the cheering section at United Center, as the Avs forward played his first NHL contest in his hometown.
Compher is from Northbrook, Illinois, which is 25 miles north of Chicago or as he says, over an hour with traffic.
Unfortunately, it was a tough end to the game for his family and friends to watch.
"It was fun," Compher said of playing close to home. "It will be nice to go see them after the game, but that's a tough one to swallow for everyone in the locker room, and hopefully we learn from it."
Compher played three years collegiately at the University of Michigan before signing with the Avalanche last summer and beginning his pro career earlier this year in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage. Prior to his time with the Wolverines, he spent two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
SMITH GETS THE START
Goaltender Jeremy Smith made his sixth start of the season and of his career on Sunday, and he went on to stop 28 shots in his first contest since March 5 against the St. Louis Blues.
Calvin Pickard had guarded the pipes in Colorado's last six games, including in Smith's home state of Michigan on Saturday.
Bednar said prior to the contest in Chicago that the plan going into the two-game weekend was to split the net between the two goalies, and he gave Pickard the outing at Joe Louis Arena because he earned the start after stringing together several solid performances.
The Avalanche made one other change to its lineup, as Mikhail Grigorenko returned to game action after sitting out on Saturday at the Red Wings. Forward John Mitchell joined defensemen Cody Goloubef and Patrick Wiercioch on the scratched list.