CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 06: Ryan Johansen #19 of the Columbus Blue Jackets moves between Brandon Saad #20 (L) and Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on March 6, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Chicago Blackhawks had an 11-game winning streak against the Columbus Blue Jackets coming into Thursday night’s game, and in their first game against their former divisional rival, they drew first blood in an easy 6-1 victory at the United Center.
Jonathan Toews and Andrew Shaw both picked up two goals in the game, and Bryan Bickell and Brandon Bollig also scored. Corey Crawford made 19 saves in the game as the Hawks rebounded nicely from a tough loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.
The Blue Jackets got the first good chance of the game on a backhanded shot from Nick Foligno, but it was the Blackhawks who got on the board first. Marcus Kruger grabbed the puck off the boards, then skated it through the slot. He attempted a backhanded floater toward Sergei Bobrovsky, but Bollig ended up deflecting the waist high shot down through the goaltender’s legs, and the Hawks took a quick 1-0 lead.
Just a few minutes later though, the Blue Jackets evened things up. The Blackhawks jumped off the ice on an awful line change before the puck crossed the red line, and Marcus Johansen grabbed a Cam Atkinson at center ice. He brought it in on a semi-breakaway, and even though Crawford was able to get a piece of it, the shot still trickled through, and the Blue Jackets tied things up at 1-1.
The Hawks and Jackets traded a couple of penalties later in the period, with a Toews hooking infraction wiping out a Nick Schultz interference penalty, but after the calls expired, the Hawks took the lead back late in the period. Sheldon Brookbank collected the puck in the defensive zone, and fired a stretch pass up the boards. Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson tried to pinch against the boards to stop the puck, but he missed it, giving Shaw the chance to grab it. The Hawks forward skated in all alone on Bobrovsky, and roofed a gorgeous wrist shot just under the crossbar, giving his team a 2-1 lead.
As the second period got underway, the Blackhawks continued to dominate possession, with Shaw picking up another quality scoring chance on a short-side shot, but Bobrovsky stopped it. The winger ended up getting a measure of revenge later on as he drilled Nathan Horton into the boards, and as the Jackets scrambled to respond, the Hawks scored again. This time, it was Brandon Saad weaving some serious magic, deking around two Jackets players and eventually getting wide open in front of the net. He put a pass directly onto Toews’ stick, and the captain popped in the easy shot on the far post, and extended the Blackhawks’ lead to two goals.
On a rush later in the period, the Blackhawks picked up another goal and chased Bobrovsky from the game. This time, it was Kris Versteeg setting things up, as he fired a shot to the far post that the Blue Jackets’ goaltender blocked to the side. Fortunately for the Hawks, Bickell was there on the doorstep, tapping in the easy rebound to make it a 4-1 game.
The Hawks finished off their killer period with a great sequence in the offensive zone. The puck eventually found its way over to Brent Seabrook at the point, and when he unleashed a slap shot, it ended up bouncing off the skate of a jumping Shaw, evading Curtis McElhinney and sending the United Center into yet another frenzy with the home side grabbing a four goal advantage.
For good measure, the Blackhawks ended up adding yet another goal as the third period got underway, with the power play providing some great punch out of the gate. Patrick Kane faked a shot from the near post to draw defenders toward that side of the net, then skated around the back of the cage. With the Jackets’ defense rotating away from Toews, Kane found his long-time teammate, and Toews didn’t disappoint, snapping off a one-timer to make the score 6-1.
The Hawks managed to hold onto the lead for the remainder of the game, and picked up a critical win as they try to keep pace in the NHL Central with the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche.
They will next play on Sunday night when they travel to Kane’s hometown of Buffalo to face off against the lowly Sabres.