Hawks clinch divison, move on to next goal

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are working rapidly down their list of season goals.

First came clinching a playoff berth. They did that on April 7.

Second was clinching the Central Division. They accomplished that Friday with a 3-2 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center coupled with a St. Louis Blues' loss.

The Blackhawks appeared as if they were going to have to wait at least one more game to take the division crown. They trailed the Red Wings by a goal from late into the second period to the final minutes of the third period. But with 2:57 remaining in the third period, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews knocked in a loose puck in front of the net and gave his team life.

"Been looking for one of those all night," said Toews, who has 20 goals this season. "I think a lot of guys had some great chances and some great second efforts in tight. Finally found a way to get loose, get the puck, empty net there. Had some great pressure in the third period. We knew if we kept that pressure up we could find a way to tie the thing up."

The Red Wings, who are on the playoff bubble, certainly had more at stake in Friday's game, and that's what Toews thought was so impressive about the Blackhawks' comeback win.

"It's easy to say being in the position we're in, a team like Detroit is going to just walk away with two points," Toews said. "We want to keep working. When you have that confidence to come back in games like that, I think it's a huge thing going into the playoffs."

The Blackhawks can start to look further forward, but their attention isn't on the playoffs just yet. Next on that list of goals is to the clinch the Western Conference title.

That isn't far away either.

The Blackhawks leads the conference with 66 points through 40 games, and the Anaheim Ducks are second with 59 points through 41 games.

"It means a lot (to win the division,) but I think we want to capture first place," Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford said. "It's been game by game all year. We're not going to change it now."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is of the same mindset. He certainly wasn't popping any bubbly after clinching the division. To him, it was just one more step to the ultimate goal.

"It's a nice achievement, but I still think we want to finish first in the other categories until the end of the year," Quenneville said. "I think that's our motivation. Let's keep pushing forward and look for more consistency in our game."