CALGARY — Andreas Athanasiou scored twice, including the go-ahead goal in the third period, as the Chicago Blackhawks snapped an eight-game losing skid on Tuesday with a 4-3 victory over the desperate Calgary Flames.
Jujhar Khaira and Austin Wagner also scored for Chicago (25-46-6), who entered the night in last place in the NHL. The Blackhawks sweep the season series winning all three games.
Tyler Toffoli, with his team-leading 34th goal, Noah Hanifin, and Mikael Backlund scored for Calgary (36-27-15), which saw its four-game winning streak come to an end and saw its playoff hopes dealt a crippling blow.
With only four games left in the Flames’ regular season, Calgary remains two points back of Winnipeg for the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference. The Jets, who host the Flames on Wednesday, have a game in hand and also own the tiebreaker.
Petr Mrazek made 33 stops for Chicago to get the win. He’s 9-21-3.
Markstrom made 19 stops for Calgary. Starting for the 16th time in the last 17 games, his record falls to 22-21-10.
Tied 2-2 after 40 minutes, Chicago took its third lead of the night at 1:43 of the third taking advantage of the second costly mistake of the night by Flames’ centre Nazem Kadri.
With control of the puck in the neutral zone, Kadri had the puck stolen off his stick by Athanasiou, who raced past him and in on a two-on-one, where he finished off a give-and-go with Lukas Reichel.
That’s goals in three straight games for Athanasiou, who before that had gone 14 games without scoring. He’s got 18 goals on the season.
Eighty-eight seconds later, the Blackhawks opened up their first two-goal lead of the night when a bouncing puck hopped past Rasmus Andersson inside the Chicago end resulting in another two-on-one. This time, Wagner kept the puck himself, toe-dragging around sliding defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, and firing a shot past Markstrom.
Backlund’s goal at 13:09 that caromed off Chicago defenceman Ian Mitchell got the Flames back to within one, but that’s as close as they would get despite pouring on the pressure in the final couple minutes with the goalie pulled.
In a game Calgary had to have, the home side was flat in the first period, falling behind 2-1 and being outshot 11-7.
The Flames wrestled back momentum in the second period, outshooting the visitors 19-4 and scoring the only goal to pull even.
At 11:44 after Wagner’s turnover inside the Chicago blue line, a slick passing sequence between linemates Jonathan Huberdeau and Blake Coleman culminated in the puck landing on the tape of Hanifin cutting through the slot and he fired a shot past Mrazek.
Calgary had a great chance to take its first lead in the final minute, but off a cross-ice setup from Toffoli, Elias Lindholm’s shot was kicked aside by Mrazek, who stretched out to get his toe on the dangerous shot.
Chicago opened the scoring 5:09 into the game when Reichel set up Athanasiou as he curled out of the corner and he buried his 17th goal of the season inside the far goalpost.
Calgary got back to even at 11:52 when Toffoli’s swipe at a loose puck in front, sent it fluttering over Mrazek.
The Blackhawks retook the lead with 38 seconds left in the first, taking advantage of a giveaway by Kadri, who with one hand, tried to poke the puck along the end boards, but it was intercepted by Boris Katchouk, who set up Khaira in front.
TANEV MAKES IMPRESSION IN RETURN
Calgary welcomed veteran defenceman Chris Tanev (upper-body injury) back to their top-four on the blue line after he missed six games. Playing on a pairing with Hanifin, Tanev got a roar from the Saddledome crowd in the first period when he threw a heavy open-ice hit on Jason Dickinson.
In addition to sweeping the season series, Chicago improves to 9-2-4 in their last 15 games against the Flames.
Blackhawks: Travel to Vancouver to play the Canucks on Thursday.
Flames: Are back in action Wednesday, playing the Jets in Winnipeg.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2023.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press