Jujhar Khaira and Austin Wagner also scored for Chicago (25-46-6), which began the night in last place in the NHL. The Blackhawks swept the three-game series against the Flames.
“Obviously we know some teams are fighting for playoff spots and it’s a good way to come into a game and be a heartbreaker,” Athanasiou said. “All the boys want to come out here and play hard and first and foremost try to get the win.”
Noah Hanifin had a goal and an assist for Calgary (36-27-15), which had won four in a row. Tyler Toffoli got his team-leading 34th goal, and Mikael Backlund also scored.
With four games left in the Flames’ regular season, Calgary remains two points back of Winnipeg for the second wild card in the Western Conference. The Jets, who host the Flames on Wednesday, have a game in hand and also own the tiebreaker.
“Frustrating. Turnovers cost us the hockey game, for sure,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. “You can see the fatigue. When you don’t have great legs, you just got to keep your game really simple. Some of us didn’t manage the puck very well.”
Petr Mrazek made 33 stops for Chicago. He improved to 9-21-3.
Jacob Markstrom made 19 saves for Calgary. Starting for the 16th time in the last 17 games, he dropped to 22-21-10.
Tied 2-2 after 40 minutes, Chicago took its third lead of the night 1:42 into the third period. Calgary center Nazem Kadri had the puck stolen off his stick by Athanasiou, who raced past him and finished a give-and-go with Lukas Reichel.
Athanasiou has four goals in his last three games and 18 in his first season with the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks then opened a 4-2 lead when a bouncing puck hopped past Rasmus Andersson inside the Chicago end, resulting in another 2-on-1. This time, Wagner kept the puck himself, toe-dragging around sliding defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, and firing a shot past Markstrom.
Backlund’s goal at 13:09 that caromed off Chicago defenseman Ian Mitchell got the Flames back within one, but the Blackhawks held on.
TANEV MAKES IMPRESSION IN RETURN
Calgary welcomed veteran defenseman Chris Tanev (upper-body injury) back to its top four on the blue line after he missed six games. Playing on a pairing with Hanifin, Tanev got a roar from the Saddledome crowd in the first period when he threw a heavy open-ice hit on Jason Dickinson.
In addition to sweeping the season series, Chicago improved to 9-2-4 in its last 15 games against the Flames.
Blackhawks: At Vancouver on Thursday night.
Flames: At Winnipeg on Wednesday night.
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