CHICAGO — With three minutes to go in their game on Monday, it appeared the Blackhawks’ hopes for the playoffs had officially disappeared.
Mark Scheifele scored what appeared to be the decisive goal for the Jets at that time, putting the visitors up 4-2 over the Blackhawks, who were in desperate need for a point. Thanks to the Avalanche getting a point in an overtime loss to the Blues a half-hour before, a loss to Winnipeg would officially eliminate Jeremy Colliton’s team from playoff contention.
But the coach had the presence of mind to challenge the play for an offsides violation, and the replay showed that to be the case. The goal was negated, the Blackhawks were still alive, and they took advantage.
Dylan Strome’s goal with 2:20 left in regulation tied the game. By forcing overtime, the team got one point in the standings to barely stay alive in the playoff race. They didn’t make it easier for themselves in the extra session as Kevin Hayes’ goal gave the Jets a 4-3 victory.
That leaves the Blackhawks with 80 points, six behind the Avalanche for the last Wild Card spot, and with no room for error in the final three games of the season. If they fail to win any of their final three games or Colorado gets a single point in their final three contests, the Blackhawks are eliminated from the playoffs for a second straight year.
The Avalanche host the Oilers on Tuesday night and then the Jets on Thursday in Denver before hitting the road to end the season against the Sharks on Saturday. The Blackhawks host the Blues on Wednesday and the Stars on Friday before ending the season in Nashville on Saturday.
Strome’s season-saving goal was his second of the night, with his first coming in the second period after Winnipeg took a 3-1 lead. Yet offensively it was Jonathan Toews who was the biggest star of the night, as his assist on the game-tying goal along with his first period goal gives him a career high of 78 points. That score was his 34th of the season, which ties his career-high setback in the 2008-2009 season.
Both of their efforts, along with a timely offsides review, were enough to keep the Blackhawks alive in the playoff race for at least another 24 hours.