The Blackhawks, for the second time in as many weeks, completed a perfect two-game road trip on the heels of a crushing home defeat with a 5-3, come-from-behind victory over the Colorado Avalache on Saturday night in Denver.
Jonathan Toews (1G, 2A), Patrick Kane (1G, 1A) and Dominik Kubalik (1G, 1A) led the way on the stat sheet with multi-point nights, while Kane, Kirby Dach and Kubalik all tallied as part of a four-goal third period to complete the comeback.
Chicago has won three of its last four games - all against Central Division opponents - and sits just five points back of a Wild Card spot just before the league's holiday break.
Here are three takeaways from the big win in the Rockies:
It was after a 4-1 loss to the same Avalance four days ago that Duncan Keith implored everyone inside the Blackhawks' locker room to step up to turn the up-and-down season around, saying "it's not going to just happen. We need to make it happen."
On Saturday night, it seemed as if the Blackhawks were headed for a similar scoreline, and a fourth consecutive multi-goal loss at the hands of their division rivals, that is until four unanswered goals in the third propelled Chicago to a 5-3 win - perhaps a season-altering victory.
"That's what it's going to take to turn it around. It's not going to be anything else other than the guys in the room," Keith reiterated after Saturday's win. "I thought we had a good game from start to finish. They're a good team and you know they're going to get some momentum and chances and capitalize, but the thing I think that was great is that we stuck with it and we didn't panic, we were patient, we competed hard (and) we were rewarded with goals and a win."
"That's what we need," head coach Jeremy Colliton said after the game. "We need a commitment to do the right things all the time and it feels like they're really holding each other to a higher standard and then we have a chance, we really have a chance to win."
The team has proved they're capable of big wins this season - topping the then-unbeaten Edmonton Oilers in October, snapping the Dallas Stars' month-long unbeaten streak in late November and taking a shootout win over the high-flying Boston Bruins just two weeks ago.
Saturday's win jumps up there with other signature victories, but as the season nears the halfway point in the next four games, the Blackhawks have to make the anomalies more reality.
"It does (feel good), but at the same time we can't get too high on ourselves," Dach said. "We've kind of had a streaky year where we win a bunch of games and we tend to lose a couple. We've got to find a way to find the standard every night and keep playing the same way."
"We do have a lot of character in our group and we have shown that we're not going to quit," Colliton said. "But the next step for us is to bring it all the time and not just when our backs are completely against the wall. That's how we're going to finally break through."
Coming into the night, Dach was starting to feel the pressure.
Long gone was his five-game point streak from mid-November that put his name among some of the franchise's best all-time rookie seasons. In its place, a 15-game pointless streak - one that snapped with gusto on Saturday with the game-tying goal in the comeback.
"I've been through this before, in a scoring slump," Dach said afterwards. "I think as a skilled player … you just gotta keep being you and keep playing your way … I felt good (throughout the stretch) and I was still getting chances. I was fighting the puck a little bit, but it was nice to get one tonight."
Dach's performance went well beyond his crucial goal, though. He led the team with four shots and put forth his third-highest playing time this season, coming just shy of 15 minutes of ice time.
"He's be getting better and better," Colliton said, admitting that the production wasn't quite reflecting Dach's progress. "I think that was the best game he's played, but I think he's been steadily progressing this whole time even though it hasn't been going in the net for him. I thought he was great tonight."
"He's going to continue to get better," Keith added. "It's a fine line between getting points and winning and losing and it's small little things that can make a big difference and sometimes those things are not even in your control. You can just control how you work and your attitude and I think he's been doing that the whole time, so it's nice to see him get rewarded there."
There's no denying the pure offensive skillset that the Blackhawks' roster boasts. And when it's playing to the full potential, it's hard to stop - especially when it can jump down a defense's throat in a matter of seconds.
The fact that the Blackhawks were even in the game ahead of Kubalik's 10th of the season that stood as the game-winner, was due almost entirely to the transition game.
On the team's opening goal, just 21 seconds into the middle frame, it stems from a quick transition from offense to defense as the opening rush lost possession. Kubalik backchecks within the offensive zone as Colorado attempts to break the puck out, applies pressure and forces a poor pass that Toews easily picks off and springs forward. Kane picks up the puck and finds the captain in front, with the puck crossing the goal line just four seconds after the pass was originally picked off.
Fast forward to the third period, where the Blackhawks face a defensive zone draw, trailing 3-1 with just under nine minutes to play. Toews wins the faceoff and Erik Gustafsson leaves it for Connor Murphy in the corner as the ice opens up in front of him. Murphy finds Toews at the Chicago blue line, who quickly finds Kubalik at the Colorado line. From Murphy standing on his own goal line to Kubalik breaking into the offensive zone is just three seconds. Kane weaves through the zone and rips a wrister through a Gustafsson screen to pull within one.
Some 28 seconds after that, the Blackhawks seamlessly transition from their own end to a goal once again.
Dach, already playing with confidence, brings it out of his own end and hits Murphy with a cross-ice feed as he enters the neutral zone. Murphy quickly lays it off for Gustafsson, who drives into the offensive zone, drawing a pair of Avs defenders to him on the far side before finding Dach driving the back post on the near side. A strong stick from the No. 3 overall pick seals the low-angle chance on an open goal mouth and, just like that, Chicago ties it up 3-3 - about five seconds after Dach's initial cross-ice pass.
"I think a big thing for our line, and even our team in general, is our transition game," Dach said after the win. "I feel like when we're able to transition from defense to offense or offense to defense quick, it kind of catches teams off guard and we're able to track back pucks and turn up ice and we're able to go. I think that's a big part of our group's success."