Blackhawks stun Avalanche with third-period binge

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[March 20, 2017]  CHICAGO -- For the better part of 50 minutes Sunday night, it appeared the Chicago Blackhawks' winning streak had reached its end. But in a span of 34 seconds, everything changed, as a flurry of sudden offense allowed the Blackhawks to keep rolling.

The Blackhawks went from down two goals to scoring five third-period goals -- including two by captain Jonathan Toews -- as Chicago won its fifth straight game with a 6-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. The win combined with a Los Angeles Kings loss means the Blackhawks clinched their ninth consecutive playoff spot.

Artemi Panarin scored the game-winner and Toews had a pair of goals in the third when the Blackhawks (47-20-5) tallied four times in three minutes to erase a 3-1 deficit. Three of the goals came in a 34-second span.

"I think we all kind of collectively made that decision to play better," Toews said. "We were just looking for that first bounce and maybe we can put some pressure on them and see if they make a few mistakes. Obviously, we got a few bounces around their net to get ahead in the game. So just once we got that first one, things started clicking for us."

Down the two goals midway through the final period, Toews drew the Blackhawks closer when he redirected a Duncan Keith shot and pushed it past Avalanche goalie Jeremy Smith, who hadn't allowed a goal since the first period.

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar immediately challenged the goal after it appeared Toews was offside. But after a video review, officials in the NHL situation room in Toronto determined it was inconclusive as to whether Richard Panik touched the puck before Toews crossed the blue line while attempting to avoid being offsides. The goal stood.

Afterward, Bednar said it wasn't the call that changed the game's flow, but instead, how his team failed to respond. The Avalanche (20-48-3) allowed at least four third period goals for the second time in two nights.

"For me, it's 3-2 with 9 1/2 minutes to go -- that gives them a little life," Bednar said. "It's what we do after that that bothers me. That call there is the least of what bugs me about how that game finished."

Panik scored 17 seconds after Toews' controversial goal to tie the game at 3 before Panarin gave Chicago a 4-3 lead 17 seconds later. Toews continued the scoring barrage with his second goal to break the game open. Marcus Kruger tallied an empty-net goal to close out Chicago's 17th win in its last 20 games.

"That was a pretty amazing couple of minutes there," said Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling, who made 22 saves. "It seemed like it broke the dam and we just kept pouring it on...It was pretty impressive and pretty clutch by our team."

Colorado led 3-1 after two periods.

With the Avalanche clinging to a one-goal lead, Sven Andrighetto widened the gap with less than four minutes remaining in the second period when he redirected a Mark Barberio shot past Darling to provide some breathing room.

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Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) and center Nick Schmaltz (8)) celebrate after a goal during the third period of the game against the Colorado Avalanche at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Mikhail Grigorenko provided the Avalanche with a 2-1 lead with just under five minutes to play in the first period. Grigorenko rattled a shot past Darling for his second goal of the night as Colorado erased an early deficit.

His first goal came directly in front of Darling when Grigorenko found the puck on his stick after the Blackhawks failed to clear the puck.

Patrick Kane gave Chicago a 1-0 lead with his 32nd goal of the season. But it wasn't until the pivotal stretch in the third period when the Blackhawks rediscovered their offense.

"It was a tremendous comeback," coach Joel Quenneville said. "(The) second period was tough watching us turn good scoring chances into nothing. (In the) third period, we got one, and all of a sudden, we got a lot more comfortable in the scoring areas. It definitely changed the whole complexion right there."

NOTES: Avalanche G Jeremy Smith made his first start since March 5 after Calvin Pickard allowed five goals Saturday against Detroit. Coach Jared Bednar said he planned to give each a start in the back-to-back games and went with Pickard on Saturday after a strong start against the Red Wings on March 15. ... C Mikhail Grigorenko replaced John Mitchell on Colorado's third line. ... Avalanche D Cody Goloufbef and D Patrick Wiercioch were also scratched. ... Blackhawks RW Marian Hossa missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. Coach Joel Quenneville said before Sunday's game Hossa would likely play. ... G Scott Darling made the start, his second since March 1, on Sunday in net after Corey Crawford had appeared in four of Chicago's five last games. ... D Johnny Oduya (rest) sat out with the Blackhawks playing for the second time in two nights. .... Chicago C Dennis Rasmussen and D Michal Rozsival were scratched.

[ 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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