Having raced past the final quarter pole of the season, the Blackhawks know every stride from here on out has to be true.
Wednesday night they took a step toward resurrecting their Western Conference playoff hopes with a 1-0 victory over one team ahead of them before a crowd of 14,799 at the United Center.
The victory over the Phoenix Coyotes came in the Hawks' 63rd of 82 games this season and moved them six points back of the final postseason berth.
The triumph was good news for the Hawks' playoff hopes but appears to be bad injury-wise as winger Martin Havlat, who missed 22 games earlier this season with a dislocated left shoulder, left the ice early in the second period after appearing to reinjure it.
Hawks goaltender Patrick Lalime, starting for the injured Nikolai Khabibulin, made 32 saves for his first shutout of the season and 35th of his career. It was the second Hawks shutout in eight days. Khabibulin blanked the Minnesota Wild 3-0 on Feb. 20 at the United Center.
"A 1-0 game, it was just like playoff hockey," Lalime said. "We know how big the points are for us right now and just to win I think that's all that matters.
"It was a big effort at home and now we just have to carry it through to [Thursday at Dallas]."
Lalime's biggest save came with 8 minutes 48 seconds remaining when he flashed his left pad to stop a quick shot from Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski.
Lalime outdueled Phoenix goalie Ilja Bryzgalov, who stopped 24 shots but gave up a goal to Jason Williams at the 7:58 mark of the first period. The veteran winger redirected a cross-ice pass from Dave Bolland with his backhand for his ninth goal of the season.
"It was a battle throughout the night," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "When we did get some chances, their goaltender was really good. When they got some chances, our guy was really good."
Lalime and the Hawks' defense was particularly strong in the third period when Phoenix outshot the Hawks 16-8.
"We played smart enough defensively," rookie Jonathan Toews said. "The bottom line is we did what we had to do in our own zone and we played smart hockey in the third period. We just have to ride this confidence right now, especially as far as our defensive play goes."
Though Havlat didn't have surgery on his shoulder this season, he has twice previously. The extent of the latest damage isn't yet known, but Hawks coach Denis Savard sounded as if his team was prepared to carry on without Havlat if it's serious.
"We'll talk to the doctors," Savard said. "We have to move on. That's the way it is.
"It's still a good club in there. We have kids who care and they want to play hard, they want to compete and they want to get to the playoffs. It's unfortunate, no question."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times