Blackhawks stun Predators with stirring rally, lending credibility to playoff hopesBen Popeon April 22, 2021 at 2:57 am

Brandon Hagel’s overtime goal gave the Blackhawks a stirring 5-4 win over the Predators. | AP Photos

The Hawks scored three times in the third period and once in overtime to beat the Predators 5-4 on Wednesday. If anything can jumpstart a postseason push, it’s probably this performance.

The Blackhawks will need a miraculous three-week comeback to make the playoffs.

But they proved Wednesday they are capable of miraculous comebacks, at least over 15-minute spans.

Given up for dead when trailing the Predators 4-1 with 10 minutes to play, the Hawks scored three times in a 2:59 span of the third period to tie the game before winning 5-4 in overtime on Brandon Hagel’s goal.

It has been years since the Hawks won a regular-season game of this significance, much less in this fashion. If anything can jumpstart a postseason push, it’s probably Wednesday’s performance.

“We never gave up,” Vinnie Hinostroza said. “If you want to be a playoff team, you have to win some games like that. It just shows the character we have in the locker room. Every guy on our team battled today.”

“It could be a big boost, but we’ve got to make that the case,” coach Jeremy Colliton added.

Entering Wednesday, the Hawks had scored three or more goals on the Predators just two times in 22 games since the start of the 2017 playoffs. They’d yet to do it in six meetings against the Preds this season, all of which had been losses.

But Wyatt Kalynuk’s goal off a Patrick Kane feed midway through the third lit some kindling. Hinostroza finishing a pretty give-and-go play with Kirby Dach — cutting the deficit to one — then ignited a fire rarely seen in the Hawks since 2017.

“It seemed like when we got that one, we got a little bit of a jolt,” Colliton said. “But then to get the second one, the group really got the burst of energy.”

In the weeks since Connor Murphy’s momentous April 8 quote, when he called the Hawks “fragile” for their unwillingness to pick each other up after mistakes, the team has somehow manufactured quite a bit of never-give-up attitude. They’ve gone 4-2-0 since that night and come from behind for three of those wins.

Colliton didn’t need to deliver a rousing public speech Wednesday like he did April 10 in Columbus — jumpstarting that eventual 4-3 victory — but instead said “everything that needed to be said” at the second intermission. Whatever he did, it translated onto the bench in the third period.

“You look left and you look right, every guy’s got the fire in their eyes,” Hinostroza said. “They’re ready to get on the ice. Whether it’s backchecking or finishing a check or getting the puck out of the zone, everyone here wants to win. We all have the same goal of getting in the playoffs. We never had self doubt.”

Goalie Malcolm Subban, making a third straight appearance for the first time in his Hawks tenure, kept the hosts within striking distance with 26 saves — some of which were spectacular — on 40 shots.

He nearly lost his mind when, from the opposite end of the rink, he watched Hagel lift the puck over Juuse Saros’ near-side shoulder and off the net’s back bar for his second overtime winner in a row.

“[I was thinking], ‘Oh my gosh,’” Subban said. “Just like, ‘We did it. We did it.’ It was an unbelievable feeling.”

The Hawks will need yet another win Friday in their final regular-season matchup against the Predators, then plenty more after that, to make the playoffs. But at least they now have a reason for belief.

“Down the stretch, there’s going to be some bigger games,” Hagel said. “We’re trying to take every game one by one, and this is the biggest one so far. Now it turns to the next game, probably the biggest one of the year. And on and on.”

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