The Chicago Blackhawks found late goals hard to come by early this season. That certainly isn't a problem anymore.
Chicago rallied for the second straight game Friday night, besting the Dallas Stars 2-1 after being held scoreless through 40 minutes. The win, Chicago's fifth in a row, comes two nights after the Blackhawks came back from a 2-0 deficit to pull out a victory in Calgary.
Back on Oct. 23, I noted that through nine games, the 'Hawks had managed just three goals after two periods, all coming on opening night against the Capitals.
Here is what I wrote concerning Chicago's third-period woes:
Of the Blackhawks' 24 goals this season, just three have come in the final 20 minutes of regulation. All three of those came opening night against Washington.
Since that night, Chicago has gone scoreless in the third period eight straight times, including four overtime periods. Three times this season the 'Hawks have seen two-goal leads evaporate in the third period.
Chicago is a minus-seven as a team in the third period compared to being a plus-four in the first and a plus-eight in the second.
The Blackhawks have responded by notching third-period goals in every one of their next 18 games through Friday night. What was a bit of a concern in the early weeks of the campaign has become a decided strength for Chicago.
The 'Hawks have gone 13-3-2 during that stretch and have not surrendered a lead that they've held through the first two periods of any game. Chicago did take a third-period lead in Tampa Bay Oct. 24 in a 6-5 overtime loss, but the score was tied after 40 minutes and the Blackhawks were down a goal late before Jonathan Toews tied the contest.
Not only has Chicago kept its foot on the gas pedal over the last month and change, they have turned into real comeback kids. In the six games in which the 'Hawks entered the third period trailing since Oct. 24, they are 5-0-1. They also have won both games in which the score was even going into the final 20 minutes.
A quick look at the five road wins Chicago has put together on the Circus Trip provides confirmation of this resolve. The 'Hawks scored three goals in the last 20 minutes to pull away in Winnipeg Nov. 21. The Blackhawks then rallied from a goal down in three of their next four games, beating Vancouver, Calgary and the Stars.
Dallas had entered Friday's tilt 7-0 when holding the lead after two periods. A Patrick Sharp redirect of Duncan Keith's shot on goal knotted the game midway through the third. This led to Ben Smith ending a marathon shootout in the 11th round to claim two points for the Blackhawks.
Chicago now leads the NHL with 36 third-period goals. The 'Hawks are a plus-12 as a team in the final 20 minutes of regulation and have five three-goal third periods in the last 18 games. As a bonus, most of this late-game explosion has come against conference opponents.
The 'Hawks are pacing the NHL in the standings as well. That shouldn't come as a surprise considering the way Chicago is finishing games of late.