On the day they were officially eliminated from the playoffs, the Columbus Blue Jackets seemed intent on ruining what remains of the Blackhawks' chances.
But the Hawks wouldn't allow it. They rallied from a two-goal, second-period deficit and then again after being down a goal midway through the third for a thrilling 5-4 shootout victory Sunday night before a crowd of 20,885 at the United Center.
The victory was the Hawks' second straight and kept them alive in the battle for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, four points behind Vancouver.
Patrick Kane scored the only goal in the shootout, and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin stopped all three Columbus attempts to give the Hawks the victory.
"We talked after the second period, and we said if we lose that our season was over," said Hawks forward Patrick Sharp, who scored his 36th goal of the season in the second period. "We rallied behind each other. I thought we all came out and played a very strong [third] period and [tied] it up. It shows the character of our team. Three games left in the season, and we're still in the race, so it's lot of fun here in Chicago."
Jonathan Toews scored the first of three Hawks power-play goals to give them a 1-0 lead four minutes into the first period. But Columbus, which beat the Hawks 4-0 Wednesday night, roared back with goals by Andrew Murray, Michael Peca and Nikolai Zherdev to take a 3-1 lead early in the second period.
Jason Williams and Sharp scored with a man advantage to tie it 3-3 after two, but the Hawks needed to rally again after Derek MacKenzie made it 4-3. Veteran Yanic Perreault, who was in the lineup only because of an injury to Dave Bolland, scored the equalizer with 6 minutes 18 seconds left in regulation. That set up Kane's and Khabibulin's shootout heroics, which kept the Hawks' season alive.
"When they announce your name that you're going to the shootout and the crowd got pretty loud, it gave me chills," said Kane, who used his backhand maneuver to beat goalie Fredrik Norrena for his seventh shootout goal in nine chances this season.
"I didn't even hear the whistle. I went down and did the same move I've done. I wanted to go low blocker, but he was so far out I just deked him. Whether it's overtime or shootout or regulation, as long as we get the points it doesn't matter to us. We needed the two, and we got them."
Williams, who had left the game earlier with a leg injury after colliding with Zherdev, returned and appeared to win the game in the shootout when he beat Norenna, but the puck bounced off the crossbar. That left it up to Khabibulin, who denied Rick Nash's wrist shot to improve the Hawks' record to 38-33-8.
"We've worked hard, and we're going to continue to work hard," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "We're going to find a way to make it. To come back to make [the playoffs] we're going to have to come from out of it, and that's what we're doing. Hopefully we get it done."