It was less than a week ago that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville called playing the Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs “inevitable.”
Not so fast.
“I might have used that word prematurely,” Quenneville said before the Hawks rallied to defeat the Canadiens 3-2 in overtime Wednesday night at the United Center. “Who knows? It really played out differently the last couple of days. Certainly, the picture could change.”
The only thing the Hawks can control is the way they close out the regular season, and they have won four in a row to keep alive their hopes of catching the Avs for second in the Central Division.
After Marian Hossa tied the game with 47.7 seconds remaining in the third period, Patrick Sharp scored in overtime to lift the Hawks in their final home game of the regular season. Jeremy Morin also scored and Corey Crawford had a strong night in goal to help the Hawks move two points behind the Avs, who are two back of the Central-leading Blues.
The Hawks have two games remaining in their quest to finish second and secure home-ice advantage in the first round, while the Avalanche and Blues each have three left.
“The numbers show that we can still do it, so that’s what we’re playing for,” said Sharp, who also assisted on Hossa’s goal. “We’d love to play at the United Center, but when Game 82 is over, we’ll take the next challenge, whatever it may be.”
Finally: The Hawks scored their first overtime goal this season when Sharp’s shot skipped past Peter Budaj just 43 seconds into the extra period.
“We were due,” Quenneville said. “(Twenty-two) games and (22) opportunities. We have a pretty good club offensively, (and) to finally take this long to get one is certainly a relief and a huge two points for us.”
Let ’em grow: Bryan Bickell, Brandon Bollig, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith and Nick Leddy are participating in the NHL’s Beard-a-Thon during the playoffs. All proceeds will benefit Chicago Blackhawks Charities. Fans are encouraged to participate and can enroll at beardathon.com/blackhawks.