Bright spots have been few and far between this season for the Blackhawks, but two were on vivid display Saturday afternoon at the United Center.
Craig Anderson made 31 saves and Tuomo Ruutu scored the winning goal in overtime as the Hawks beat the Boston Bruins 2-1 for their season-high third straight victory before a crowd of 17,142.
NHL. Rookies Anderson and Ruutu have had their ups and downs this season but lately their play, like that of the Hawks, has been on an upward trend.
Ruutu's game-winner came off a slick feed from Tyler Arnason 4 minutes into overtime. His ninth goal of the season was an early birthday present for Ruutu, who will turn 21 Monday and may make a late push for All-Rookie team honors.
Anderson's ascent has been more dramatic. Saturday was the fourth straight game in which he has allowed two or fewer goals. After going 16 NHL appearances without a victory, he has won three straight.
"You get more confidence as you keep playing, and when you play well you get more confidence," Anderson said. "Anytime things go well, you'll keep doing better."
This is Anderson's second stint with the Hawks this season. His first lasted just 13 games. He played in seven of those 13, allowing 12 goals in the last three.
He has played in 10 of 11 games since returning and has allowed two or fewer goals in six of them.
"Everything is going in the right direction right now," Anderson said. "I can't fix anything right now, it's going well."
The only mistake Anderson made came when he got caught flat-footed on a Boston 2-on-1 and P.J. Axelsson flipped a backhander past him on the short side 71 seconds into the second period.
It looked like that goal would stand up until Bryan Berard pumped a shot on the power play past Boston rookie goalie Andrew Raycroft at 11:04 of the third period. It was a reprieve for a Hawks power play that wasted a four-minute man advantage to start the third.
That power play was gained after a frightening moment. Just 11 seconds into the third, Axelsson got his stick up and caught Hawks captain Alex Zhamnov in the face.
Zhamnov went to the ice in a heap. But he returned, his trade value intact. It was his face-off victory and pass to Berard that set up the tying goal, giving Zhamnov 18 points in 22 games.
The brief scare highlights the position the Hawks are in. As long as they wait for the best possible deal for Zhamnov, the longer they risk a recurrence of his back injury or some other injury that will prevent any deal.
In Toronto just before the All-Star break, for example, Zhamnov took a slash to the hand that required stitches. On a similar play last season, Zhamnov missed six games.
Blackhawks 2, Bruins 1, OT