CHICAGO – It’s happened so many times over the better part of the last decade that most fans came to expect it.
The fog horn going off when the clock hit zero, the players skating to the middle of the ice at the United Center with sticks in the air, saluting the fans as “Chelsea Dagger” plays. All are traditions when the Blackhawks win at home, which became a given most nights they took the ice on the West Side during a run of three Stanley Cups.
That’s not the case anymore – at least not for the moment.
Coming into Wednesday’s game with the Penguins, the last time the Blackhawks had a home win was November 18th, with the team being saddled with an eight-game losing streak. They were the last team in the NHL to yet reach double-digits in victories, and they came into the contest at the United Center bringing up the rear in the entire league.
But for a night, Jeremy Colliton’s team turned back the clock to a better era and a team that many envisioned the Blackhawks meeting in a Stanley Cup Final sometime this decade. For now, a victory will do.
After finally getting a good start to a contest, the Blackhawks went back-and-forth with Pittsburgh most of the night, then finally pulled ahead in the third for a 6-3 victory that snaps an eight-game skid. Players skated to mid-ice after the victory to celebrate with the faithful, providing a rare moment in a season of change for the franchise.
For once, the Blackhawks were able to generate a strong start that’s escaped them most of the last month, with a bit of luck. With 5:46 to go in the first, Carl Dahlstrom’s shot bounced off the chest of Andreas Martinsen and went in the net for the score to make it 1-0. It was the first time the Blackhawks had a lead in six days, and they increased it later in the period on a goal by Brent Seabrook.
Pittsburgh rallied behind Bryan Rust, who had a pair of goals after that score to tie the game at two in the second period. Even when Alex DeBrincat added his 13th goal of the year with less than five minutes left in the middle period, Rust came back with his hat trick goal to tie it at three.
At last, the Blackhawks were able to own a third period, with Marcus Kruger’s goal giving the team the lead 16:11 to go in the game. Corey Crawford (40 saves) held off Pittsburgh the rest of the way, and when Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad added a pair of empty netters, the Blackhawks finally got to celebrate at center ice like they’ve done so many times the past decade.
But in 2018, it’s a moment to appreciate.