With the Blackhawks in desperate need of two points, Alex DeBrincat and Corey Crawford stepped into the spotlight.
The pair combined forces to lead the Blackhawks to a 2-1 overtime victory over the Predators on Friday night at the United Center. DeBrincat scored both goals and Crawford made 42 saves to help the Blackhawks snap a two-game losing skid and win for the second time in their last nine contests. The two points were crucial for the Blackhawks as they try to work their way back into the Western Conference wild-card race.
"We needed that one," Crawford said. "It's a team we're chasing right now. We just have to bring that effort. Guys were working hard, (we have to) just kind of forget about the standings. If we're working hard and playing the right way, I think that's all you can ask for. Most nights you'll probably get what you want."
After Mattias Ekholm opened the scoring late in the second period, the Blackhawks tied it on DeBrincat's power-play goal midway through the third. They won it in overtime when DeBrincat beat Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne on a breakaway to send the season-high crowd of 21,878 home happy.
"In a tough game like that where we battled hard its definitely good to get the win," DeBrincat said. "(We're) feeling good going into the next game."
The win improved the Blackhawks' record to 27-26-8 and they moved to within six points of the second wild-card spot in the West. The Predators dropped to 29-23-8.
"Huge win," said Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who assisted on both of DeBrincat's goals. "It's nice to win like that at home, too. We've kind of had our struggles this year at home (13-13-4) and it's something we've talked about: having a better outcome, better atmosphere here. It was tough there for most of the game, we were down by one and found a way to get it done in overtime."
Here are three takeaways from the Blackhawks' win:
CAT STANDS TALL
At 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, DeBrincat isn't the prototypical net-front presence on the power play but that's where the winger found himself against the Predators.
It paid off when DeBrincat redirected a Patrick Kane shot while standing in the slot to tie the game at 1-1.
Has DeBrincat spent much time in front of the crease while on a man advantage during his career?
"No, actually, never in my life," he said. "I watched some clips (Friday) and tried to do the best I could. I tried to get in the goalie's eyes as much as possible. The goal, (I was) just trying to go to the net and it just hit me. It's lucky."
In the final minute of overtime, DeBrincat was sprung on a breakaway by Keith and scored his second goal of the game and 16th of the season.
After scoring 41 goals in 2018-19, DeBrincat is on pace for 19 this season. The 22-year-old said he's been focusing on not getting too down about his scoring woes.
"I'm trying to stay even as possible," DeBrincat said. "I think getting down on yourself isn't really going to help anything. For me, I've just been trying to keep working on it. Obviously, you get frustrated at times but I try to stay as positive as possible."
Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton had to shuffle the Blackhawks' defensive pairings when he was told just prior to warmups that Erik Gustafsson should be held out of the lineup.
Gustafsson is an unrestricted free agent after the season and would appear to be a prime candidate for the Blackhawks to trade prior to Monday's deadline, so the decision was likely precautionary to avoid an injury.
"Hockey ops made the call," Colliton said. "They wanted to pull him, so we just acted accordingly."
That meant Nick Seeler was inserted in the lineup, skating alongside Connor Murphy. The other pairings were Keith and Slater Koekkoek and Olli Maatta and Adam Boqvist.
"(We had to) make a quick decision as far as what we're going to do and you never know how it's going to work out," Colliton said. "I thought Seeler did well. A lot of guys played extra minutes and hard minutes with all the penalties in particular.
"I thought our group did a good job of responding to that type of thing," Colliton added. "Obviously, 'Gus' is a very popular guy in the room. But I thought we handled it well."
Said Keith, who logged a team-high 28:23 of ice time: "I thought we did as best we could adjusting to that. I thought Seeler did a good job stepping in on such short notice, thinking he's not going to play, and then all of a sudden five minutes before the game he's dressed and ready to go. I thought he played great and says a lot about his character and good for him."
Keith assisted on both goals with the first giving him 600 career NHL points. The 36-year-old became the 10th skater in Blackhawks history to reach the 600-point mark.
"It feels good-it's been a fun ride," Keith said. "It's been a privilege being a part of this team, this organization. We're treated first class (and I've) played with a lot of great teammates over the years. Patrick Kane always seems to be included in those milestones, for me, anyway."
Keith, who is sitting on 99 career goals, added that it was nice to reach the milestone during a Blackhawks victory and it added to the positive vibes in the dressing room.
"It's been tough the last couple of weeks but at the same time it's always the next game you're thinking about, worried about," Keith said. "(It was) nice to get the win here in front of our fans and that atmosphere."