DENVER—The good news: The Blackhawks can afford a collapse like this. No harm done.Still, with the playoffs around the corner, the best team in the West wants to be clicking on all cylinders. This wasn’t exactly what they had in mind.Defenseman Erik Johnson went coast-to-coast to score at 1:57 of overtime and the Colorado Avalanche rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Blackhawks 4-3 on Tuesday night.Johnson grabbed the puck near his goal, took advantage of a line change by the Blackhawks to cruise up the ice and beat goaltender Scott Darling with a nifty shot. It was Johnson’s second goal of the season after missing a chunk of the season with the broken leg he suffered on Dec. 3.
”We didn’t play the way we’d like to,” Joel Quenneville said. ”We’ll move forward.”
The Blackhawks are tuning up for the postseason with nothing left to play for in the regular season.They’ve already captured the Central Division and locked up the top seed in the Western Conference. The real goal is to get some key players rest. Defenseman Duncan Keith got the night off Tuesday.Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog had short-handed goals for the last-place Avalanche, who won for just the second time in 10 games. Mikhail Grigorenko tied it up early in the third period off a pass from Duchene.
”They’re the best team in the West, a great team, and it’s fun to get a win,” Johnson said.
Artemi Panarin, Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger scored in the second period for the Blackhawks to stake them to a 3-0 lead. It wouldn’t last as they remain stuck on a franchise record-tying 24 road wins.Darling was at his best with his team a man down late in the third, stopping one point-blank shot after another. He couldn’t come up with the save on the OT shot by Johnson, who skated by Marian Hossa near the Avalanche goal, saw open ice and was off to the races.
”I was able to pick it up. There’s so much room in 3-on-3,” Johnson said. ”I tried to make a move to the net and luckily it went in.”
Hartman scored his 19th goal of the season, one away from becoming the seventh Chicago player to reach 20. That sort of scoring balance could come in handy.
”We can have guys up and down the lineup scoring goals,” he said. ”Close games it can really help and it can put you far into the playoffs.”
Patrick Kane had an assist for his 88th point of the season as he tries to keep pace with Connor McDavid of Edmonton in the scoring race. Kane was playing with a fat lip that required three stitches inside his mouth and seven on the outside, courtesy of being hit by an errant puck during pregame warmups in their previous game.The Avalanche finished with a season-high 51 shots, but couldn’t seem to get anything past Darling – except when the Blackhawks were on the power play.Duchene scored off a pass from Matt Nieto for a short-handed goal. Landeskog followed 4:15 later with another. They entered the game with three short-handed goals all season and none at home.
”It’s just when the puck decides to go in, it goes in,” Duchene said. ”When it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Colorado recently called up center Rocco Grimaldi and defenseman Duncan Siemens from San Antonio of the American Hockey League. Siemens was the 11th overall pick in 2011 and played in his second career game – both against the Blackhawks. He also saw action in the season finale on April 11, 2015.
NOTES—Niklas Hjalmarsson didn’t make the trip to Denver. ”He’s back home with some family matters,” Quenneville said. … C Artem Anisimov missed his 11th game, but has resumed skating. … Darling made a career-high 47 saves. … Duchene had a goal and two assists…..The Blackhawks are at Anaheim on Thursday night for the second of three straight road games to finish the regular season.They then close out the Regular Season at Los Angeles Saturday evening.