- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ben Smith wasn't completely sure minutes after the Chicago Blackhawks' 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets whether he or Peter Regin was responsible for the winning goal with 3.9 seconds left in the third period.
Ultimately, Smith didn't really care. All that mattered was the Blackhawks won again.
Playing without Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for a second consecutive night, the Blackhawks found a way to win for a second consecutive night. The Blackhawks weren't always picture perfect, just as they weren't against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but Chicago overcame two deficits, picked up its play as Friday’s game went along and ultimately snatched a regulation win in dramatic fashion.
"It's always nice to win games," Smith said. "We miss those guys big time, it's pretty clear, but guys are stepping up, guys are playing hard and we're playing, for the most part, a simple game, and that's helping us keep games close and pulling through in the end.
"Our goal is to be playing our best hockey as we move into the playoffs, so every win is big, every point is big. Four games left now, we're excited for this week here, this push, and hopefully playing our best hockey going into the playoffs."
The victory kept the Blackhawks mathematically alive for second place in the Central. The Colorado Avalanche lead the Blackhawks by one point and have two games in hand. The Avalanche and St. Louis Blues, who lead the Central, play Saturday.
Two games ago, the Blackhawks were a team headed in the wrong direction. They had dropped three consecutive regulation games for the first time all season and lost Kane and Toews to injuries that will keep them out of the remainder of the regular season.
The Blackhawks realized something needed to change quick, but they were also adamant they weren't panicking.
"I think if you play the right way, you give yourself a chance," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think keeping it simple is something we stress a lot. We got ourselves up to speed a lot. I think you got [to] balance and keep yourself mentally aware of what you need to do and play the team system well and everybody complements each other. The last two wins here are very exciting for where we were a couple days ago."
The Blackhawks felt fortunate to be tied 1-1 with the Blue Jackets after the first period. The Blue Jackets outshot them 13-8 in the first period.
Quenneville didn't say much during the intermission, but he got the attention of the players.
"We mentioned after the first period, 'Hey, boys, it's a playoff pace here tonight. We better pick it up,'" Quenneville said. "We got better the last 40 minutes."
Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta did as well. Raanta admitted there were times in the first and second periods Friday he didn't know where the puck was and was searching for it.
But after being disappointed in his play and giving up three goals through two periods, Raanta shrugged off what he had done and cleaned the slate for the third period. He denied all six shots he faced in the final period.
"You just have to stop worrying about the first two periods and just try to keep it simple and try to take those saves when you have to take them, and, hopefully, somebody scores," said Raanta, who notched his first win since Jan. 12. "That was the game plan today, and it worked really good."
Quenneville said, "It was a win that we fought back. Goaltending had a couple there that went in. The guys didn't get discouraged. We stuck with it and found a way to battle through it."
And, it was Smith, not Regin, who scored the game winner.