The Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets took the ice Wednesday night for a game that held serious postseason consequences for both teams.
In a tight-checking, hard-hitting game between Central Division rivals, the Hawks were denied a chance to clinch fourth place in the Western Conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets at the United Center.
The defeat snapped the Hawks' five-game winning streak, but the one point earned gave them 100. With two regular-season games remaining—both against the Detroit Red Wings—the Hawks still need a point to clinch home ice for a postseason series against either the Calgary Flames or Vancouver Canucks.
After Columbus rallied on Rick Nash's late third-period goal, Fedor Tyutin scored the winner in the shootout against Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason shut down Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dave Bolland to help Columbus, which entered the NHL in 2000-01, wrap up the franchise's first postseason appearance.
"You could tell what was at stake for them," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of the Blue Jackets. "We had a lead late and they scored and they make the playoffs. It was pretty important for them. We would have liked to have gotten two points, which was our motivation and our goal, so we left an important and valuable point on the table."
After Khabibulin, starting on back-to-back nights for the first time this season, stopped Nash on a penalty shot midway through the first, the Hawks seized the momentum and Brent Seabrook scored on a breakaway off a terrific pass from teammate Brian Campbell to take a 1-0 lead.
"He's playing very well," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He seems bigger in the net. He looks comfortable back there and we have confidence off him as well."
Dave Bolland made it 2-0 when he scored with 21 seconds remaining in the first. The center took a pass from Kris Versteeg, skated past the Columbus goal and sent to the puck to the slot. A sprawled and sliding Nash knocked the puck into the net and followed it in head-first.
Columbus roared back in the second period and tied it on goals from Andrew Vermette and former Hawk Jason Williams.
Martin Havlat then took a fine feed from Patrick Kane and gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead late in the second. Kane spotted Havlat in the right circle and hit him with a pass that the winger one-timed past Mason.
Nash evened the score 3-3 when he scored with 5:30 remaining in the third.
After a scoreless overtime, the game headed to a shootout.
"It's frustrating," said Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who had two assists. "At the same time, you lose in a shootout and we could have easily won that game. Khabibulin was good and their goaltender was good. We made a few mistakes with the puck and they have some guys who can put it in."
The Hawks have two days off until they travel to Detroit to face the Red Wings on Saturday and then conclude the regular season Sunday afternoon against the Wings at the United Center.
"We have four points up for grabs," Keith said. "We haven't claimed the fourth spot yet. It will be a big two points on Saturday."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun