COLUMBUS, Ohio—When a team is struggling as much as the Blackhawks have recently, anything remotely positive is seized upon.
So a point on the road against a division rival, while not optimal, isn't cause for as much consternation as, say, losing the three previous games in regulation had been.
The Hawks fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in overtime Wednesday night at Nationwide Arena, but in the process earned a critical point in the Western Conference playoff race.
Antoine Vermette scored 2 minutes 38 seconds into the extra period to lift Columbus to the victory and give his team two points to pull within four of the fourth-place Hawks.
With their point, the Hawks regained sole possession of fourth over Vancouver, which was idle. Both the Hawks and Canucks have 13 games left and Columbus has 11.
"The way we've been playing, it's good to get a point," said Hawks winger Patrick Kane, who had a goal and assist. "We just have to keep building. It's not easy to get out of this funk."
The Hawks, who have lost six of seven games, did the right thing by scoring the first goal of the game for the first time in seven contests.
"We've been getting better every game," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "We had the first goal, and that's what we wanted."
The Hawks' quick start came off the stick of Dave Bolland, who beat goalie Steve Mason from the bottom of the right circle a minute into the game. Bolland worked a give-and-go with Andrew Ladd and eventually scored his 16th goal of the season when he squeezed the puck past Mason to the short side.
The lead was short-lived as R.J. Umberger's goal 2:50 later tied it and Columbus then took the lead on a Derek Dorsett goal midway through the second.
Kane swung the momentum back toward the Hawks with his 24th goal with 2:12 remaining in the opening period. The winger took a feed from behind the Columbus net from Troy Brouwer and sent a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle past Mason to even the score.
Jonathan Toews, who also had an assist, scored his 29th to put the Hawks ahead 3-2 midway through the second. The Hawks converted on the power play when a pass from Cam Barker hit Toews' skate, went off the skate of Blue Jackets defenseman Jan Hejda and into the net.
Again, Columbus answered quickly when Rick Nash solved Hawks goalie Cristobal Huet from a sharp angle along the goal line just 58 seconds later.
Barker left the game shortly thereafter with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
In overtime, Vermette scored when he raced in on Huet with Brian Campbell defending and knocked the puck in for the victory.
"We stemmed a little bit of the flow going against us," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Now we have to think about winning and feeling a little bit more confident in critical times."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun