In need of a lengthy winning streak to remain alive in the Western Conference postseason race, the Blackhawks posted their fourth victory in a row with a 4-3 triumph over the Oilers on Thursday night at the United Center.
Alex DeBrincat scored twice while Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had a goal to support strong goaltending from Corey Crawford as the Blackhawks moved to within four points of a wild-card spot in the West.
"We have a lot of home games that we can really capitalize on," DeBrincat said. "You look at the standings every night. I don't know if that's a good thing or not, but you see where you are and you see our schedule, we can definitely capitalize on this if we battle each and every night and come ready to play."
Making his seventh consecutive start, Crawford made 21 saves, allowing goals by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Josh Archibald and Kailer Yamamoto, the latter two in the third period as the Oilers made a push. Meanwhile, Oilers starter Mike Smith was pulled from the game after allowing four goals on 21 Blackhawks shots.
"(The Oilers) had some momentum there late but we played hard all game and we were able to hold them off," Crawford said. "This was a hard-fought game. We did a lot of good things out there."
Said Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton: "Big win for the team. First two periods were excellent for the most part, and they had a push there in the third. I thought we fed their push a little bit, obviously a couple turnovers and they ended up in the back of our net, which they gained some life from. But I was proud of how we finished the game off. We gritted it out. Big two points and found a way to close the game in regulation and good to see that."
The Blackhawks now stand at 31-28-8 on the season while the Oilers had their three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 36-24-8.
Here are three takeaways from the Blackhawks' victory:
DON'T STOP BELIEVING
The road the postseason is still filled with obstacles, but the four-game winning streak has the Blackhawks believing they can make a run to get there. They have 15 games remaining, nine of them at the United Center where they are 17-15-4 on the year.
"It's fun," Kane said. "These are big games for us. Fun to play in front of our crowd. Obviously, we have a big one (Friday night), too, (against the Red Wings) and we can really get rolling here."
Colliton said the Blackhawks' youngsters have been the difference during the late-season surge.
"The older guys, the top guys, they're playing hard; they want to win, they're doing everything they can," Colliton said. "The biggest difference is the young players. We've got a lot of them and they're all getting better at different speeds. They're not all getting better at the same rate but they're all getting better, and that adds up to some depth and some excitement in the group and confidence. It's fun to coach."
The Oilers boast the top two scorers in the league in Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, but the Blackhawks limited them to two points on Thursday night - both assists by Draisaitl.
Colliton said the work ethic by Blackhawks forwards was the key.
"We were getting above the puck consistently (and) our gap was good," Colliton said. "(McDavid) is a great player and Draisaitl is a great player, but when you've got to come through five guys, it makes it easier to defend. We were pretty consistent there and I also thought our puck plays were pretty clean. That's the thing: If you don't turn it over, then it's easier to defend. If you turn it over, then it's tough to defend. The third period when they got their momentum was a pretty clear illustration of the difference."
Kane agreed that putting players between the Oilers standouts and the net was a big factor. McDavid finished with three shots on goal and Draisaitl had one.
"For the most part, you try to frustrate them, you try to get above them and make sure they have to go through more than a couple of players out there," Kane said. "But they're so talented they're going to create their chances and get opportunities. As a team you take it as a challenge to try to limit them as much as possible."
Kane reached the 30-goal mark for the fifth time in his career, including the fourth in the last five seasons.
"(Thirty) is a good number," Kane said. "Obviously, throughout the season you know you start thinking about those numbers, whether it's 20 or 30 and obviously you want to get even more than that.
"We have 15 games left here so finish strong and I think if I finish strong and do my part we might have a good chance to get in," Kane added.
The winger notched No. 30 when Kane took a feed from Dylan Strome and waited patiently for the goal to open before firing it into the upper-right-hand corner of the net.
"We got in on the forecheck and Strome got a puck back and usually when we do that we can create," Kane said. "I just tried to bust through the seam and the area there and he put it on my stick. You can shoot right away but I thought maybe I could be patient there and go around him and put it in the open net. Nice to see it go in."