ANAHEIM – This was supposed to be about Corey Crawford. It was his first game in over two months, after all.
The team’s top goaltender returned to the net for the first time since December 16th with a clean bill of health, hoping to help his team in their final 19 games as they make a push for the playoffs. Crawford figured to be the storyline one way or the other for a Blackhawks team that played without him the last 28 games.
Yet another storyline, again, dominates the headlines of the contest at the Honda Center. While it may be familiar, that doesn’t make it a bad thing at all for Jeremy Colliton or Blackhawks’ fans that waited up to see their two stars save them again.
Trailing the struggling Ducks Wednesday night by a goal in the closing minutes of regulation, Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane came up with goals to close out the game and help the Blackhawks escape with a 4-3 victory in Anaheim.
The first goal came with 4:54 to go as DeBrincat notched his second score of the game to tie it a three, and the second came with just 16.1 seconds to go, as Kane was the beneficiary of a great center ice move and pass from Brandon Saad to score the game-winner.
Those late scores, coupled with 29 saves from Crawford in his return to the ice, kept the Blackhawks within five points of the last playoff spot. The Avalanche currently hold that spot after taking it away from the Stars with a 3-2 shootout win over the Canucks in Denver on Wednesday night.
Both late goals were not only critical for the Blackhawks but also represented career milestones for each player. Kane’s score, his first and only point of the night, was his 40th goal of season, and marks just the second time he’s reached that total. The previous was the 46 he scored in his MVP season of 2015-2016, a personal best which Kane has 18 games to try and best during this campaign.
The right wing finished an incredible month of February where he scored 11 goals and assisted on 12 others in 13 games.
DeBrincat nearly matched Kane’s output for the month with 11 scores and 10 assists. Two goals on Wednesday brought him to 36 on the season, making him just the fourth in franchise history to reach that total before turning 22. He joins Jeremy Roenick, Bobby Hull, and Steve Larmer in that exclusive club.
What’s odd is that the big finish by both DeBrincat and Kane came after each failed to register a point in a loss to the Stars on Sunday. But like they have for most of the season, the scorers came through when they were needed, upstaging the return of a prominent player, and helping the Blackhawks keep pace in the race for a playoff spot.