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Edmonton Oilers beat Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in shootout
After earning the right to be called the "fourth-place Blackhawks" for the bulk of three months, the Hawks woke up Friday fifth in the Western Conference.
Their March swoon allowed the surging Vancouver Canucks to leap-frog the Hawks in the race for home-ice advantage. But with a game in hand, the Hawks had their chance to reclaim fourth Friday night with the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center, a team the Hawks had defeated three previous times this season.
But when things are going bad, it doesn't matter who comes to town as the Hawks fell 5-4 in a shootout in a back-and-forth contest before a crowd of 22,151. The loss was the Hawks' fifth consecutive and seventh out of their last eight games, but they did manage a point to pull even with the Canucks in the West with 12 games remaining.
Dustin Penner had a goal and assist while Patrick O'Sullivan and Ales Kotalik scored against Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin in the shootout to help the Oilers avoid a season sweep.
"The standings are at the forefront of our focus right now," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We know those teams right around the playoff cutoff are going to come hard, and they're going to play just as hard as us."
The Hawks had their opportunities as they outshot the Oilers 43-31. Toews even had a penalty shot with 7 minutes 7 seconds remaining in the third with the score tied 4-4 but Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson stopped the attempt.
"I had an opportunity to make a huge impact on that game and help us break through," Toews said. "It's going to be hard to get over that."
The Hawks battled back four times to tie the score and earn the point.
"I thought we played well enough to win," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "[But] when you lose in a shootout … a loss is a loss is a loss.
"I really thought we were going to win. We had some real good chances late in the third and we just stuck with our game plan. That's what I liked about [Friday night]."
Dave Bolland, Adam Burish, Cam Barker and Martin Havlat all scored after Edmonton goals to keep the Hawks in the game before Toews and Patrick Kane came up empty in the shootout and O'Sullivan and Kotalik beat Khabibulin.
The Hawks, already having completed four-game series sweeps over Phoenix, Dallas and Calgary, were looking to do the same to Edmonton. Of more importance, playing the first of a five-game homestand, the Hawks were looking to stop the bleeding from their skid and regain momentum in the race for postseason positioning.
They have earned points in their last two games after falling to Columbus in overtime Wednesday night.
"We got down early and kept fighting back and climbing back in the game and then we'd give up another goal," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
"We're having a hard time keeping it out of our net right now and trying to get momentum in games. It was a battle out there until the end."