The Chicago Blackhawks’ remaining two regular-season games will be played on the road, and winning away from United Center is something they’ll need to do in the postseason to advance out of the first round.
They visit Washington on Friday night with hopes of improving on their recent away results against a Capitals team that’s been eliminated from playoff contention.
Chicago was assured of third place in the Central Division following Colorado’s 4-2 win at Vancouver on Thursday night, meaning its quest to repeat as Stanley Cup champion will begin on the road.
Article continues below ...
After Thursday’s 3-2 home overtime win against Montreal, the Blackhawks (46-19-15) have won four straight. It was their first overtime win of the season, and though the format of the extra session is different in the postseason, coach Joel Quenneville said it was good to finish one off without a loss or shootout victory.
"It’s not the type of overtime you see in the playoffs," said Quenneville, whose club is 1-7 in overtime contests that don’t reach a shootout, "but going forward, it gets the monkey off our back."
The same could be said about gaining some road confidence. Despite the recent overall success, Chicago is 2-6-1 away from United Center since Feb. 7, and its potent offense has been held to 15 goals in those games.
The Blackhawks mirrored that offensive struggle in the first two periods against the Canadiens, then got it together as the game opened up in the third. Jeremy Morin and Marian Hossa scored, and Patrick Sharp got the winner in the first minute of overtime.
"Those last eight minutes were unbelievable," Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford told the team’s official website. "We were buzzing around and it just felt like we were going to score there. It was a great finish to the game. That’s the way we have to play."
Hossa and Sharp each added an assist, and Sharp has five points in three games with a goal in each. The veteran left wing is two shy of tying a career-best 36 goals in 2007-08.
Morin has also scored in three straight after having one goal in his previous 19.
Crawford made 28 saves for his third straight win. He hasn’t allowed more than three goals since Jan. 22, a 13-8-2 span with a 1.82 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. He’s 2-0-1 in his career against Washington with a 3.28 GAA, which includes a season-opening 6-4 win Oct. 1.
Hossa had a goal and an assist in that meeting and has 10 points in his last eight games against the Capitals.
Washington center Mikhail Grabovski had three goals and an assist to give him six points in five career games against Chicago.
The Capitals (37-30-13) had their playoff hopes end Wednesday when Columbus and Detroit clinched the last two berths in the East, then won their third straight game Thursday. The 5-2 victory at Carolina featured a pair of goals from Troy Brouwer, who was trying to find something to play for.
"We went out there and we want to finish the season off right so that we can have some good games," Brouwer said. "Maybe a little consolation smile on your face when you go into the summertime, I guess."
Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr each had a goal and two assists on the Capitals’ third line, while Braden Holtby made 36 saves to improve to 3-0-0 with a 1.95 GAA and .943 save percentage since April 5.
Fellow goalie Jaroslav Halak is winless in his last five starts, but he’s 5-1-3 with a 2.28 GAA in his career against Chicago.
The Blackhawks remain without top forwards Jonathan Toews (upper-body injury) and Patrick Kane (knee). Kane resumed skating with his teammates on Wednesday, and both are expected back for the playoffs.