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THREE THINGS: Road Warriors, Leaning on Lehner and Finding Lanes

Three takeaways from Chicago's 3-2 shootout win in Columbus on Sunday night

by Carter Baum @CarterBaum / Blackhawks.com

The Blackhawks were down, but not out, as they fought back for the second straight road game to earn a victory, 3-2 over the Blue Jackets on Sunday night in a shootout. 

"Very good win," head coach Jeremy Colliton said of the comeback. "Didn't like our first period at all but I thought we found a way to respond in the second. It's not like we dominated the second but we played much better and had our chances and were able to stay in the game and give ourselves a chance to come back. I thought the third we were really good, kind of pushed and pushed and pushed."

Here are three takeaways from the win:


ROAD WARRIORS

Sunday was the second straight road game the Blackhawks found themselves in a multi-goal hole at the second intermission, trailing 2-0 in Ohio after 40 minutes. It was also the second straight game they came away with two road points, courtesy of goals from Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson in the third and a shootout win via Robin Lehner, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. 

"It's important," Strome said of the character in the room to fight for the result late. "We have the belief in here after the second period that we're going to do it and we talked about it after the game. It's nice to come in and believe you're still going to win after two periods being down. We did the same thing in Colorado and did the same thing here tonight. After the second, we felt like we were playing pretty good and we carried it over to the third."

"We talked about playing to the end. Don't quit, give ourselves a chance," Colliton said. "We've got some guys who aren't going to give up, so that's good, that's a good sign of the character on our team and it's nice to see them get rewarded."

With the shootout win, Chicago has now won five of their last seven games and sits just four points out of a playoff spot nearing the halfway point of their schedule. To continue their current climb, stringing together wins is important, but not as much as finding the consistency from game to game. 

"I think a little bit," Strome answered when asked if the group was finding their rhythm. "But we can't get too high. We seem to do that where win a few in a row or three out of four … We've still got to work. I think we are really, really good when we work and when we do the right things and it shows, like in the second and third, I thought we played great and the results finally came."

Video: Blackhawks rally, top Blue Jackets in shootout


LEANING ON LEHNER

Lehner got the starting nod for a second straight game and the fourth time in the last five outings for the Blackhawks, and overcame his self-described struggles in the shootout with his first skill-session victory of the year. 

The netminder has been vocal about his dislike for the penultimate deciding factor in games, but said Sunday night was different, changing not only his approach but having his mind taken off the shootout by a veteran teammate. 

"I don't feel any type of different pressure on me, I've (just) not been very good at it. I tried a little different tactic today, I just kind of stood there," Lehner said, explaining how he sat deep in his crease and let his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame do most of the shutdown work. "And Zack Smith, before the shootout started, told me a really, really bad story and that kind of got my mind off of it, credit to him." 

He wouldn't divulge the exact story, but showed great appreciation for the poor storytelling skills of the 31-year-old. 

The rest of the team, though, showed appreciation for Lehner's leadership in the comeback. 

"Lehny's very vocal," Strome said. "He sees a lot of the game and he's got a great hockey mind back there and tells us (after) the second period we're playing good, the bounces are going to come and we believe in each other."

"Robin is great, he's always positive in the locker room," Gustafsson added. "Even to me there when I gave up the second goal, just trying to stick this team together and I think he's a big part of that comeback in the third."

Video: Lehner, Strome and Colliton on SO win in Columbus


FINDING LANES

Through the opening two periods, the Blackhawks had put just 12 shots on goal while seeing another 15 would-be chances blocked by the Blue Jackets. On pace for their lowest shot total of the season, Colliton said postgame that the offense wasn't producing enough looks to find the scoresheet.

"We had some shots blocked, but we also passed up some shots where we had a chance to get a puck through and then we're trying to make that final pass. We don't need to do that, especially on the road - let's just get pucks to the net and give ourselves a chance to get a bounce."

In the third, Chicago nearly matched the total through the opening 40 with 11 shots on goal and both tallies were generated on shots from the point through traffic - a Strome tip-in and a Gustafsson shot that deflected off a defender and in. 

"I thought the third we were really good, kind of pushed and pushed and pushed and you give yourself a chance to find a way to get a puck through and both goals," Colliton added. "We just get a puck through from the top and have some traffic in front."

"We've got to give D better opportunities to shoot the puck and we also get to the net, and they've got to get them through. It's a combination of everything and good things happen when we get pucks through and to the net and we have guys there," said Strome, who tipped a Connor Murphy shot for the opening goal. "They've been getting a lot of pucks through the past four, five or six games and we haven't really had guys there. We're working on it, we're trying to get there and that's where you score goals."

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