CHICAGO – Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews shifted into high gear and revived his goal-scoring touch just when his team needed it.
Toews scored on a low shot from the left circle at 3:19 of overtime to give Chicago a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night and move the Blackhawks within two points of a clinching a Western Conference playoff spot.
Toews beat Ty Conklin on the short side after taking a long lead pass from Duncan Keith and racing in with Blues defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo in close pursuit.
Toews has 32 goals, but the winner was just his second score in his last 10 games.
“When it comes down to OT or late in the third period, we’re going to find a way to win,” Toews said. “You saw the motivation, the determination we had on the ice tonight.
“Sometimes things click and they go in for you. Sometimes they don’t.”
Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky and Nick Leddy scored in the second period to help the defending Stanley Cup champions erase a two-goal deficit.
St. Louis’ Chris Stewart scored midway through the third to set up overtime. T.J. Oshie had a goal and an assist, and David Backes also scored for the Blues, who are out of the playoffs for the second straight season.
Backes’ goal was his 31st, matching his career high set in 2008-09.
The Blackhawks, 3-3-1 in their last seven, improved to 95 points and have two games remaining with the Red Wings, on Friday night in Detroit and Sunday in Chicago.
Before Wednesday night, the Blackhawks had scored just nine goals in their previous six games. Sputtering offence has been a big reason why Chicago hasn’t been able to nail down a post-season spot.
On Wednesday, Patrick Sharp, Chicago’s leading goal scorer with 34, returned after missing seven games because of an injured left knee.
“He had a lot of jump in his game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He added a lot of spirit to our team, and energy as well.”
Sharp assisted on Hossa’s goal at 7:52 of the second that cut the Blues’ lead to 2-1—and got the Blackhawks’ offence rolling. The goal withstood a 6-minute video review.
Sharp flipped a centring pass into the crease that deflected into the net off Hossa’s left skate. It also wasn’t clear if the puck completely crossed the goal line before Conklin swept it out.
“It got the momentum back for us,” Sharp said. “Both ‘Hoss’ and I didn’t think it was in, but the ref was standing right there and he pointed. I guess it was a 50-50 chance.”
There was no doubt in Conklin’s mind.
“It was a close play, but the puck never crossed the line. I was sitting there watching it, and I knew it wasn’t over,” Conklin said. “We wanted to come in here and play a solid game. We know what their situation is. I don’t think we’re trying to knock them out more than anyone else would.”
Chicago rookie Corey Crawford made 21 saves in his 25th straight start.
Conklin stopped 35 shots in his 200th NHL game.
Backes was credited with the only goal of the first period just 17 seconds in following a Chicago turnover. Andy McDonald picked off Hossa’s outlet pass from the right boards, then slipped the puck to Oshie. Oshie’s 30-foot shot from the slot deflected off Backes and then off the top of the left post before landing behind Crawford.
The Blackhawks failed to convert a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:44 midway through the first, and managed only three shots during the advantage.
Oshie’s power-play goal 1:06 into the second made it 2-0. His high shot from the top of the right circle handcuffed Crawford and slipped past on the stick side.
Hossa’s goal at 7:52 cut it to 2-1. Following the video review, referee Dan O’Halloran announced the puck had crossed the goal line.
After the ruling, Chicago began playing with more cohesion and confidence. Kopecky tied it at 2 with 6:37 left in the second by swatting in a bouncing puck from the left edge of the crease.
Leddy put Chicago ahead 3-2 with 1:50 remaining in the period on a screened drive from the left point. Stewart scored managed to flip in a shot from the slot and tie it 3-3 at 9:44 of the third, despite being tied up by Leddy and Keith.
In overtime, Conklin made point-blank saves on Toews and Viktor Stalberg before Toews’ goal. Moments before Toews’ winner, a shot by Oshie hit Crawford in the mask.
NOTES: The Blackhawks recalled RW Ben Smith from Rockford of the AHL. He appeared in three games earlier this season. … St. Louis RW Cam Janssen was a healthy scratch.