Blackhawks overcome Zajac hat trick, Devils in OT
CHICAGO -- When Marian Hossa considered his options, the Chicago Blackhawks veteran wasn’t initially convinced putting a shot on goal was his best choice.
But as has been the case this season, Hossa having the puck with the game on the line is proving to one of the Blackhawks’ most viable options.
Hossa scored his fourth game-winning goal of the season 1:31 into overtime as the Blackhawks beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Thursday night.
Hossa’s goal came immediately after New Jersey’s Michael Cammalleri hit the post with a shot attempt. Hossa took the puck from Patrick Kane at the blue line on Chicago’s subsequent possession and sent the puck toward Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.
“It wasn’t a hard shot,” Hossa said. “I just tried to shoot it at the net.”
The Blackhawks (16-6-3) finished off the victory after struggling to find much rhythm early. Chicago twice erased one-goal deficits before allowing a one-goal advantage to slip away in the third period.
The Blackhawks took their first lead of the night 3-2 on Niklas Hjalmarsson’s unassisted goal with only 1:35 remaining in the second period. Hjalmarsson’s wrist shot found its way through traffic and past Schneider, who finished with 29 saves.
But after falling behind, the Devils responded when Travis Zajac scored his third goal of the night and tied the game 3-3 midway through the third period.
Despite Zajac’s hat trick, though, the Devils (10-7-6) lost for the sixth straight time on the road.
“It’s tough not to pick up a second point, but we were down in the third against a team that’s really good at home and found a way to get it to overtime and stick with it,” Zajac said. “That’s something you can build off of.”
The Blackhawks appeared to take a 4-2 lead 1:27 into the third when Brian Campbell rebounded a Richard Panik shot and got the puck past Schneider. But the goal was waved off when Panik was called for goaltender interference after he took Schneider out of the play by barreling into him on the hard-charging shot attempt.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville challenged the initial call that the Blackhawks had not scored, before video review confirmed that Panik interfered with Schneider.
Panik missed a chance to snap the 3-3 tie late in regulation when he pushed a shot just wide of an empty net with Schneider out of position.
But when given the chance in overtime, Hossa didn’t miss as the Blackhawks followed up a shootout victory against Florida earlier this week with an overtime win.
“We’ve played a lot of games that have been tight,” Quenneville said. “Ten minutes to go and it’s tied. The way the game is played now, you want to make sure you get a point and when we get to overtime, we like our chances in that setting.”
Zajac’s power play goal gave the Devils a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. But Chicago answered almost immediately when Artem Anisimov cleaned up Brent Seabrook’s miss that Schneider couldn’t control. When the puck squirted loose, Anisimov flipped a shot past Schneider.
Marcus Kruger tied the game 1-1 only 1:02 into the second period. Kruger took a touch pass from Dennis Rasmussen on an odd-man rush and fired a wrist shot over Schneider’s shoulder.
New Jersey took an early lead 3:13 in when Zajac poked a rebound past Corey Crawford after the Chicago defense couldn’t clear the puck from out of the crease.
Slow start aside, the Blackhawks found a way to finish -- thanks again to Hossa.
“I think there’s lots of calmness in the dressing room even when we don’t play the best game,” Hossa said. “We know we can steal one point and in overtime, maybe we can get another one.”
NOTES: Devils RW Taylor Hall returned Thursday night after missing eight games. Hall underwent surgery after he tore his meniscus Nov. 12. ... Rookie F John Quenneville made his NHL debut Thursday night after being called up from New Jersey’s AHL Albany affiliate. Quenneville is the second cousin of Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. ... New Jersey C Sergey Kalinin (illness), LW Reid Boucher (healthy scratch) and C Jacob Josefson (healthy scratch) did not play. ... Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews missed his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury. Joel Quenneville said Toews is expected to resume skating either Friday or Saturday, but will be doubtful for Saturday’s road game against Philadelphia. ... Chicago C Artem Anisimov returned to the lineup Thursday night after leaving Tuesday’s game against the Florida Panthers when he was hit in the heel by the puck. ... Blackhawks RW Jordin Tootoo and D Gustav Forsling were healthy scratches.