Toronto’s Cody Franson (left) and Joffrey Lupul double-team Bryan Bickell in the third period. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: April 2, 2012 9:55AM
It was a game the Blackhawks had to win. With a tough three-game road trip looming, a loss to the woeful Toronto Maple Leafs would’ve been a catastrophe for the Hawks.
To prevail, the Hawks basically needed everything they’ve talked about for days — production from stars, energy from rookies and desperate play — to recover from a two-goal hole for a 5-4 victory Wednesday night at the United Center.
The Hawks ended their three-game losing streak, while the Leafs lost their sixth in a row and 10th in their last 11.
“[We’re trying] to get some wins here, get some points and finish out the season strong, but, for sure, we’re desperate,” Patrick Kane said.
“We’re in the back half of the West to make the playoffs, so how can you not be?”
After saying they needed to be better as stars of the team, Kane and Marian Hossa delivered. Kane scored a game-tying goal at 8:33 in the second period and assisted on Hossa’s powerful score for the lead. Hossa also had an empty-netter with 15.9 seconds left to seal the victory.
Rookie forwards Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger had a goal each and provided the spark the Hawks said they had to get from their young players. Kruger’s goal was key as he scored in the last 30 seconds of the first to cut the Leafs’ lead to 3-2.
Rookie bruiser Brandon Bollig also scraped with Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn, and Nick Leddy had two assists.
But even more was needed.
“I thought Ray [Emery] did an outstanding job for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said.
“You look back over the year, you get some goalie wins. I thought he was instrumental in us winning tonight.”
Corey Crawford was pulled after allowing three goals on 10 shots in the first period. It was the second consecutive start that Crawford has been pulled and the seventh time this season.
Emery (23 saves) made a handful of tough stops, especially in the final 60 seconds.
Defenseman Sami Lepisto blocked what would’ve been a tap-in, game-tying score by Matt Frattin in the last five minutes.
Leafs winger Mike Brown scored with 3.3 seconds left for the final margin.
“As a guy coming off the bench, you just want to play solid and give the guys a chance in a tight game,” Emery said.
Veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya, the Hawks’ only trade-deadline acquisition, had an inauspicious start. He was on the ice for the Leafs’ first three goals, including Joffrey Lupul’s power-play goal in which Phil Kessel’s shot went right through his legs. Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur also scored in the first.
But, like the Hawks, Oduya recovered.
When Wednesday began, the Hawks were seventh in the West with others hot on their trail. It might have been an Eastern Conference team, but the Hawks’ win over the Leafs was crucial.
“A lot of us knew here in this locker room that [tonight] was — I don’t want to say a must-win game — but a game that we should win, and a game [where] we can kind of get ourselves back on track,” Kane said. “We know we’re going on the road here, playing some tough teams again, so it was a game we definitely had to take advantage of.”