It’s finally over, again.
The Chicago Blackhawks ended their second eight-game losing streak of this season with a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday Night Hockey on NBCSN.
Playing just 24 hours after getting thrashed 6-3 by the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Chicago was desperate not to extend that streak to nine (which would have been a first since 2012).
Chicago had no answers following the Winnipeg game. Head coach Jeremy Colliton said his team was playing against men, sharply implying his team wasn’t.
Patrick Kane flat out called it “embarrassing.”
All the losing was taking its toll, again.
One of the biggest knocks recently with the Blackhawks is that they started so poorly in many of those games that no matter how good they played in the final two periods, it was never enough.
A winning formula would likely begin with a good start, and that’s exactly what they got at the United Center on Wednesday.
It helps when you shoot. The Blackhawks failed to get a shot on goal in the first 17:36 of the opening frame on Tuesday.
They reconciled that in 19 seconds on Wednesday.
Winning rarely comes easy, and Wednesday’s ‘W’ was by no means a comfortable one for Chicago.
Twice they coughed up the lead. Bryan Rust scored a hat trick in the game, potting his first with 1:20 left in the first period. He tied the game 5:46 into the second before Alex DeBrincat regained Chicago’s advantage on the power play late in the period. But as he did in the first, Rust scored a late (and lucky goal off Seabrook’s stick) to complete his hat-trick and bring proceedings level once more.
By all accounts, Pittsburgh had an easy path to victory laid out for them. Yeah, yeah… any team, any night and all of that. But an ailing team playing the second half of a back to back is as mouth-watering as it gets in the NHL.
Instead, the Pens allowed a fourth goal to Marcus Kruger in the third and despite throwing up 43 shots on the night, couldn’t solve Corey Crawford a fourth time as he came away with a 40-save win — his first in his past nine starts.
The Blackhawks fed two more into the back of the net — both empty netters — as Jonathan Toews and Brendan Saad drove the final nails into the coffin.
Toews, who had a goal and two assists for a three-point night, eclipsed 700 points in his NHL career. He came into Wednesday two shy of the milestone.
Chicago’s schedule doesn’t get much easier going forward. They face Winnipeg once again on Friday before welcoming San Jose and Nashville over the next week.
The Blackhawks took a stride on Wednesday and have something to rally behind now, even it was just a baby step.