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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Brian Sandalow

Rookie Connor Bedard scores game-winner in overtime as Hawks top Jets

Connor Bedard celebrates his game-winning goal Wednesday night. (Getty)

Connor Bedard knows he has a lot to improve as his rookie season rolls on.

At the beginning of the season, the focus was on puck management. Now, there’s an emphasis on his performance in the Blackhawks’ defensive zone, on winning faceoffs and on continuing to make plays.

‘‘I’ve been all right in making plays and creating, but you always want to do more as an offensive player, create more,’’ Bedard said before scoring both goals in the Hawks’ 2-1 overtime victory Wednesday against the Jets. ‘‘Hopefully I can do that.’’

Yes, Bedard has been pretty good at creating plays. He showed that Wednesday by scoring in different ways in front of an announced crowd of 20,540.

Bedard opened the scoring in the first period when he collected a rebound of his own shot between his legs and, as he was lunging forward, jammed the puck past Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

Bedard then won the game at 2:13 of overtime when he fired a wrister past Hellebuyck.

‘‘It’s always nice to score goals,’’ Bedard said. ‘‘Especially [with] the crowd tonight, it was awesome. It was nice to get the win in overtime.’’

Those goals continued a nice run for Bedard, who pulled off something spectacular Saturday against the Blues.

During the first period of what turned into a 7-5 loss, Bedard scored a lacrosse-style ‘‘Michigan’’ goal. In short, he held the puck on his stick in the air behind the Blues’ net long enough to control it and dump it over goalie Jordan Binnington’s shoulder.

As things do these days, the goal quickly went viral through social media — and with good reason. Lacrosse-style goals require core strength, hand-eye coordination, excellent puck control and quick-twitch ability only few athletes possess.

Wayne Gretzky, the greatest scorer of all time, said he couldn’t do what Bedard did. That praise got back to Bedard.

‘‘It’s cool,’’ Bedard said. “Obviously, probably one [of the best], if not the best, player to ever play the game,. The fact that he knows who I am is pretty cool. To hear him talk about me and have him say some kind words is special.’’

Did Bedard think Gretzky could pull off a ‘‘Michigan’’?

‘‘Maybe not with the curve that he was using,’’ Bedard joked. ‘‘No, I’m sure if he tried, he could do it pretty well.’’

Nobody will know whether Gretzky could have scored in that way, but the Ducks’ Trevor Zegras once again left no doubt he could just a few hours after Bedard’s first ‘‘Michigan.’’ Known as one of the flashiest players in the game, Zegras scored his third career lacrosse-style goal in a loss to the Kraken.

‘‘He texted me; it was kind of funny,’’ Bedard said. ‘‘It’s rare for them to go in. For a couple to happen on the same night, it’s a funny coincidence.’’

A modest Bedard was asked which goal was better.

‘‘I liked Zegras’ [goal],’’ Bedard said. ‘‘He picked it up kind of with his toe there, so I think that’s a little harder.’’

As Bedard said, lacrosse-style goals are rare. Not only do they take immense skill, but they require time behind the net.

‘‘If it’s there, I just see it as a good scoring chance,’’ Bedard said. ‘‘Obviously, it’s fancier. I think goalies are obviously getting more certain of reading it and stuff, but sometimes it might catch them off-guard. It was obviously there for myself and [Zegras]. We both got fortunate that we scored one.’’

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