Many goals have been scored in the NHL this season, 126 against the Blackhawks alone. But Nikolai Zherdev's game-tying goal with 24 seconds left in the third period Monday night likely will be at or near the top of anyone's list when this season is over.
Jaroslav Balastik scored the game-winner in overtime as Columbus snapped a six-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over the Hawks, their sixth loss in seven games.
But it was Zherdev, who put on a puck-handling display throughout game, who brought the crowd of 17,441 to its feet after he picked up the puck at his own goal line while the Hawks once again tried to protect a lead in the final minute.
After bobbing and weaving through every Hawk on the ice, Zherdev picked up his own rebound and slid it past Nikolai Khabibulin to force overtime.
"Going coast to coast is rare for me this season," Zherdev said. "But I think it's what I do best. I think it was the most important goal of my life right now."
Said Columbus goalie Marc Denis: "That was borderline Bobby Orr, and I don't think [Zherdev] knows who Bobby Orr is."
The game-winner came when the Hawks were pinned in their own end for nearly a minute, failing twice to clear the zone and change players. Balastik took a pass from Radoslav Suchy and beat Khabibulin from the top of the right faceoff circle.
"I anticipated a little harder shot, maybe," Khabibulin said. "I overreacted a little."
Hawks coach Trent Yawney wasn't too impressed by Zherdev's goal and said the game should not have gone to overtime.
"He's got a lot of speed, but we're talking about the NHL here," Yawney said. "We had plenty of opportunities to put that game away."
Indeed, the Hawks not only had eight power plays, they had two two-man advantages totaling nearly 90 seconds in which they didn't get a shot on goal. The Hawks had a power-play goal by Anton Babchuk but also gave up their seventh short-handed goal of the season.
The Hawks took the lead midway through the second period. Duncan Keith scored short-handed from the high slot through the legs of Denis.
But for the second straight game the Hawks failed to protect a lead in the final minute. Against Detroit it was a combination of the Red Wings' poise and skill. Monday was a "great individual effort," said Columbus coach Gerrard Gallant, describing Zherdev's goal.
Either way, it amounted to just a point in both cases, not nearly good enough.
"Another game that we found a way to lose," Khabibulin said. "Two points wasted."
The Hawks have been trying to chase the teams above them in the West, but with home games Wednesday against St. Louis and Friday against Columbus, they may find someone nipping at their heels.
"The bottom line is we didn't get it done again," Keith said. "We're going to have to find a way here sooner or later."
Tuomo Ruutu went through another vigorous skate Monday morning. It's the first road game Ruutu has been at since he last played Nov. 1 in Detroit. ... Curtis Brown picked up an assist on Keith's goal, just his fourth point and first since Nov. 2, a span of 21 games without a point. After getting points in the first two games, Brown has two since. ... Andy Hilbert, scoreless and minus-2 in his last three games, was a healthy scratch.
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