Clutch performances from Andrew Ladd and Scott Darling led the slumping Blackhawks to an important victory on Saturday night.
Ladd had two goals and an assist and Darling made 31 saves in a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames that kept Chicago ahead of Nashville in the tight Central Division playoff race.
“We’ve lost a ton of ground here and trying to get a win was the most important thing,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “We’ve still got to be better, but we found a way to win, which was nice.”
Clinging to third in the Central Division, a 1-4-2 skid has seen the Blackhawks lead over the hard-charging Predators reduced to two points.
“We know where we’re at in terms of the standings,” said Ladd. “Nashville’s right on our heels and St. Louis is pulling away. We understand this road trip is a big road trip for us.”
Ladd’s first multi-point game with Chicago gives him eight points (5 goals, 3 assists) in 12 games since the Blackhawks acquired the left-winger from Winnipeg just prior to the trade deadline.
Game two of a four-game road trip goes Sunday in Vancouver.
Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen, with the second of two empty-net goals, also scored for Chicago (43-25-7).
Dougie Hamilton with his 11th, a career-high, scored for Calgary (31-38-6). Back home after three games on the road, the Flames head out for another four-game trip beginning Monday in Arizona.
Chicago broke a 1-1 tie on Shaw’s 14th goal with 49 seconds remaining in the second period.
Michael Rozsival spotted Shaw open at the side of the net and from the point, directed a hard slap-pass diagonally through the slot that Shaw deflected behind Joni Ortio.
Darling, who improved to 8-7-3, was perfect the rest of the way in his fifth start in a row with Corey Crawford (upper body) sidelined and not on the road trip.
“Darling was huge. He made some big-time saves. He fought through traffic to find pucks. He was lights out tonight,” said Shaw.
Darling was especially sharp in the second period when his 11 saves included several key stops as the Flames had two power plays including a brief 5-on-3.
It was a stellar bounce-back outing after being pulled after the first period last game against Dallas after allowing four goals on 15 shots.
“We had unbelievable chances in the second period on our power play. I thought that our power play deserved to score a goal. We had great chances but we just couldn’t get the red light on,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley.
Down 1-0, Calgary tied it at 12:47 of the second on a great moment for the Hamilton brothers. Freddie Hamilton partially fanned on his shot from the slot but had the puck slide to his brother Dougie at the side of the net and he directed it in the open side.
Playing their fourth NHL game together, the two former teammates on the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, celebrated their first combined NHL goal with an emotional hug in the corner.
“In junior there were a lot of those – Hamilton from Hamilton. We always enjoyed that so to do it in the NHL is pretty cool,” said Dougie, the younger brother.
Ortio, who had 23 saves, falls to 4-8-4.
Notes: Chicago’s Marcus Kruger (dislocated wrist) returned after missing 41 games. He bumped Dale Weise to the press box as a healthy scratch... Deryk Engelland returned for the Flames after missing three games due to the birth of his second child... Calgary’s Sam Bennett has gone 18 games without a goal... Flames’ Mark Giordano played game No. 585, tying him with Gary Roberts for 9th in franchise history.Report Typo/Error