Chicago was down, but never out, on Wednesday night at the United Center.
The Blackhawks, who trailed by three goals until the midpoint of the third period, forced overtime and then took the game in the extra frame over the Predators, 5-4, in a crucial win to keep their playoff hopes alive in a tight Central Division race.
Pius Suter scored the game's first goal before a third-period flurry from Wyatt Kalynuk, Vinnie Hinostroza and Dominik Kubalik to force overtime. Brandon Hagel notched his second OT winner in as many trips to take the win, while Malcolm Subban stopped 36 pucks to keep the Blackhawks in it.
"Gutsy comeback," head coach Jeremy Colliton said postgame. "Put ourselves in a pretty big hole. Obviously it was a pretty big game, but we stuck with it, didn't give up. Definitely proud of that response. Certainly we can do things to make it easier on ourselves … Suby was big for us, made some key saves at important times in the game and a bunch of guys came through with some big plays for us to score."
"Definitely," hero Hagel said when asked if it was the biggest game of the year. "Down the stretch, there's going to be some bigger games, but we're trying to take every game one by one and this is probably the biggest one so far. Now it turns to next game, probably the biggest game of the year and on and on and on."
Video: Blackhawks rally in 3rd, complete comeback in OT
Here are three takeaways from the win:
Down 3-1 to open the third period on Monday, Chicago knew they had to erase a bad start to the final frame from Monday's game that put a comeback bid out of reach. Just 58 seconds in, though, Luke Kunin made it a 4-1 game with what seemed like, from afar, the dagger.
"That's not the way you want to start any period, especially we were down (already)," Hinostroza said. "In the locker room between periods, we just talked about having a good start."
The score remained until a few ticks past the halfway point of the period when Wyatt Kalynuk scored while jumping into an odd-man rush. Hinostroza scored the first in his second stint as a Blackhawk just 69 seconds later to make it a one-goal affair and forced a timeout from the Predators to attempt to calm things down. It didn't and 102 seconds after that, Dominik Kubalik potted the equalizer, 4-4.
Three goals in the span of 2:51 was impressive. Knowing that the Blackhawks hadn't scored that many goals in any whole game this season against Nashville, that's irony.
Video: NSH@CHI: Blackhawks score three in 3rd, win it in OT
"It's a funny game," Colliton said. "It's tough to explain sometimes. I thought we created quite a bit early on as well. We got that one, we got a little bit of a jolt, but then to get the second one, the group really got a burst of energy from it."
"I think that's just how it works sometimes," Hagel added. "When we're playing the right way, we're a good hockey team and we can score goals. Just kind of seemed against this team that it wasn't going our way sometimes."
The comeback was completed in overtime as Hinostroza fed Hagel off a rush, and the rookie picked his top corner over Juuse Saros for the game-winner and crucial second point. Any other result after the comeback bid would've been nothing short of heartbreaking.
"Oh my gosh, just like 'We did it. We did it.' Unbelievable feeling," Subban explained of his emotions after the winner. "I wish there were fans here to see it, too. That would have been unbelievable. Just hearing the crowd cheering that overtime goal would've been great. Can't wait to have them back in here."
It's just the second time in franchise history the Blackhawks trailed by three or more goals with under 10 minutes left in the third and came back to win. The other came against Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers on February 1, 1987.
Video: Hagel on OT GWG
The comparisons between the games of Hagel and Hinostroza are hard to miss. They both possess incredible speed to get from one end of the rink to the other, and then when they get there, the grit and drive to play a physical, hard-nosed game on the forecheck and around the net. They also dually possess the offensive tools to score goals as they each did on Monday night, completing an all-around game that Colliton likes to see in his lineup.
"The speed is so key," he explained of the pair. "It helps our team so much to get out of D-zone and push the pace and get through the neutral zone. Allows us to have more of a forecheck, which I think we need to have against a team like Nashville. Whether they play together or play apart, it just helps the lineup have a little more depth."
The duo who combined on the game-winner and posted three- and two- point nights (Hagel: 1G, 2A, Hinostroza: 1G, 1A) even have a new self-described nickname in tow: the Bash Brothers.
Video: NSH@CHI: Hagel goes top shelf to win it in overtime
"He was kind of saying it in between the intermissions, 'If we get out there, let's be Bash Brothers,'" Hagel said of Hinostroza. "We got out there and I guess we were Bash Brothers with that final goal."
"We kind of talked a little bit off the ice and said we have to bring the energy and play hard and be some of the guys first on the forecheck, playing kind of chippy, hitting guys," Hinostroza added. "When we get out there, we just look at each other and it's kind of like a Bash Bros. thing, just go out there and work as hard as we can and if we score, we score. The main point is getting in on their D, creating some offensive zone time and creating momentum for our team."
Video: Hinostroza on rallying to beat NSH
After losing a defenseman mid-game in three of their last five games coming into the night, Colliton dressed seven blueliners for Wednesday's contest as a precaution. It proved to be a smart decision as Calvin de Haan was ruled out during the first intermission with a nagging hip pointer injury.
"We've had trouble the last couple weeks here keeping the full group on defense," Colliton explained of the move. "It doesn't seem to matter who we dress, we lose someone. We had a couple guys obviously banged up, so it made sense and pretty happy we did it at this point."
The injury is the same one that pulled him from action on April 10 and saw him miss games on April 15 and 17 before returning to the lineup on Monday in Nashville.
In positive injury news on the back end, though, Adam Boqvist returned to action after missing three games in concussion protocol and Kalynuk, who left Monday's game with a hip injury, also drew back in, scoring a crucial goal to start the third-period comeback.