The Blackhawks kicked off an important four-game homestand in style with an inspired comeback against the Red Wings on Sunday night.
After falling behind early, the Blackhawks got consecutive scores from Dylan Strome, Dylan Sikura, Adam Boqvist and Dominik Kubalik to top the Red Wings 4-2 in an Original Six showdown at the United Center.
"Obviously, it wasn't the prettiest game but I thought we did what we had to do," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We fell behind early, of course, which wasn't where we wanted to be but I thought we stuck with it and didn't panic.
"In the past maybe we wouldn't have won that game so I think that's a good sign for us going forward that we were able to get two points," Colliton added.
It marked the Blackhawks' fourth win in their last five games - and sixth in their last eight - as they improved to 19-18-6 on the season.
Corey Crawford made 19 saves to earn the victory in goal while Jimmy Howard (23 saves) suffered the loss for the Red Wings (10-30-3).
"That team plays pretty hard," Crawford said of the Red Wings. "We didn't let up, we just kept playing. So if we do that eventually we'll get our chances and we'll score goals. You just can't let up, that's the only thing."
Here are three takeaways from the Blackhawks' victory:
BIG FIRST STEP
The Blackhawks have struggled at the United Center this season so they realize the significance this four-game homestand is in their quest to get back into the race for the postseason.
Sunday's win was a large step toward piling up points while playing in friendly confines.
"We have to be really good at home, we talked about that," Crawford said. "These are big points coming up so (we) just have to take care of home ice.
"We're just worried about next game - can't think too far ahead," Crawford added. "(We've) been saying that for years, just worry about the next game. That's all we can do. It was a big win for us, a good comeback and (let's) get ready for the next one."
The Blackhawks upped their record at home to 10-9-3 and will welcome the Flames, Predators and Ducks, respectively, to town this week.
"We've talked about how we want to play better at home (and) we've started that process," Colliton said. "We've been better in three of the last four games and we've got another few coming back. We'll obviously focus on the next one, that's the most important one. But it's a great opportunity to climb in the standings and put pressure on the teams above us and also build confidence that we're on the right track and we are improving because I believe that we are."
It took 44 games, but Sikura finally notched his first-career NHL goal when he scored to tie the game late in the second period. The winger swooped in, pounced on a loose puck and fired it past Howard before jumping into the arms of teammate Erik Gustafsson to celebrate.
"I pictured that exact scenario maybe a thousand times before bed," Sikura said of his first career goal. "It was kind of just instincts when it came there and it was a nice play by 'Gus,' so (I'm) happy to get that one out of the way."
Sikura said he felt "relief" getting his first goal, which was assisted by Gustafsson and Patrick Kane.
"I waited a long time for that," the 24-year-old said. "As much as I tried to not let it affect me, obviously at the end of the day it's going to and it's going hurt your confidence a little. Sometimes when you're not scoring it kind of feels like you're not doing much out there even if maybe you are. It's nice to get that weight off my back and hopefully get a couple more here."
Said Colliton: "I'm sure it was weighing on him. Definitely huge to see it go in for him and it was a big goal for us."
During the drought, Sikura focused on doing the little things to help linemates Kane and Ryan Carpenter.
"Playing with 'Kaner' I don't think goals are too much of a concern right now," Sikura said. "I'm just trying to get to the loose and dirty areas, hunt down pucks and forecheck. Little things like that go a long way for guys like that."
Making his first start since Dec. 23, Crawford shook off some cobwebs to keep the Blackhawks in the game until the offense kicked in.
"I was a little rusty," Crawford said. "Just some small stuff around the post, I've got to get used to that. Some traffic, too, deciding which way to look, just little things like that. But I'll get better."
The Blackhawks figure to ride Crawford while Robin Lehner works his way back from a right knee injury suffered against the Canucks on Thursday night in Vancouver.
Crawford improved to 7-11-0 on the season and lowered his goals-against average from 3.20 to 3.14 to go along with a .905 save percentage.
"Obviously, him and us … didn't want to fall behind 2-0 but he made some huge saves to keep it 2-0 and then he shut the door the rest of the way," Colliton said.