Hawks forward Toews the line
Chicago closes in on clinching West playoff berth
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews shifted into high gear and revived his goal-scoring touch just when his team needed it.
Toews scored on a low shot from the left circle at 3:19 of overtime to give Chicago a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night and move the Blackhawks within two points of a clinching a Western Conference playoff spot.
Toews beat Ty Conklin on the short side after taking a long lead pass from Duncan Keith and racing in with Blues defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo in close pursuit.
Toews has 32 goals, but the win- ner was just his second score in his past 10 National Hockey League games.
“When it comes down to OT or late in the third period, we’re going to find a way to win,” Toews said. “You saw the motivation, the determination we had on the ice tonight. Sometimes, things click and they go in for you. Sometimes, they don’t.”
Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky and Nick Leddy scored in the second period to help the defending Stanley Cup champions erase a twogoal deficit.
St. Louis’ Chris Stewart scored midway through the third to set up overtime. T.J. Oshie had a goal and an assist, and David Backes also scored for the Blues, who are out of the playoffs for the second straight season.
Backes’ goal was his 31st, matching his career high set in 2008-09.
The Blackhawks, 3-3-1 in their past seven, improved to 95 points and have two games remaining with the Red Wings, on Friday night in Detroit and Sunday in Chicago.
The Blackhawks’ win, coupled with the Anaheim Ducks’ triumph over the San Jose Sharks later Wednesday, knocked the Calgary Flames out of playoff contention in the West.
Despite beating the Edmonton Oilers 6-1, the Flames now cannot catch either Chicago or Anaheim.
The Dallas Stars, with three regu- lar-season games to play, remain in the playoff hunt in the West.
Before Wednesday night, the Blackhawks had scored just nine goals in their previous six games. Sputtering offence has been a big reason Chicago hasn’t been able to nail down a post-season spot.
On Wednesday, Patrick Sharp, Chicago’s leading goal scorer with 34, returned after missing seven games because of an injured left knee.
“He had a lot of jump in his game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He added a lot of spirit to our team, and energy as well.”
Sharp assisted on Hossa’s goal at 7:52 of the second that cut the Blues’ lead to 2-1 — and got the Blackhawks’ offence rolling. The goal withstood a six-minute video review.
Sharp flipped a centring pass into the crease that deflected into the net off Hossa’s left skate. It also wasn’t clear if the puck completely crossed the goal-line before Conklin swept it out.
“It got the momentum back for us,” Sharp said. “Both Hoss and I didn’t think it was in, but the ref was standing right there and he pointed. I guess it was a 50-50 chance.”
There was no doubt in Conklin’s mind.
“It was a close play, but the puck never crossed the line. I was sitting there watching it, and I knew it wasn’t over,” Conklin said.