Buoyed by a three-goal second period outburst, the Chicago Blackhawks knocked off the Winnipeg Jets by a score of 5-1 Saturday in a matinee tilt.
Brandon Bollig, Patrick Sharp, and Nick Leddy all scored in that second period, and Ben Smith and Niklas Hjalmarsson also scored as the Blackhawks won their third consecutive game, a streak in which they have scored 16 goals in an incredible offensive outburst.
The game didn't get off to the best of starts for Chicago, who fell behind early when Tobias Enstrom fired a shot through traffic that ended up finding its way past goaltender Corey Crawford, and just five minutes into the contest, the Jets had a 1-0 lead.
From there though, the Blackhawks seemed to come out on the upper hand of every battle for the puck along the boards, and really stepped up their back-checking game in the neutral zone in a big way. They also were the beneficiaries of a good set play just five minutes after the Jets took the lead, as Marcus Kruger won a clean face-off victory and forced the puck to the point. Hjalmarsson grabbed the puck at the blue line and fired a picture perfect shot past Ondrej Pavelec for his first goal of the season to tie things up for Chicago.
The two teams traded opportunities back and forth for the rest of the period, with the Hawks failing to convert despite some fantastic pressure from their second and third lines, and even though the Jets ended up with an 11-10 lead in shots after the period, it was clear that the Hawks had the upper hand.
That momentum carried over into the second period, as the Hawks got into the act early on. After a solid defensive play broke up a Winnipeg possession at the Hawks' blue line, Brandon Bollig grabbed the puck and sprinted down the ice on a 2-on-1 rush with Marcus Kruger. Bollig showed some great patience on the play, and instead of trying to force it through the middle of the ice, opted to take the shot himself, and he beat Pavelec to give Chicago a 2-1 lead.
Less than two minutes later, the Hawks struck again. This time, it was Sharp showing some great awareness, as he spotted a chance to break up ice as the Jets' defenders pinched in on offense. Marian Hossa saw this, and hit Sharp with a great pass, and the Hawks' sniper didn't miss on a breakaway attempt, beating Pavelec and giving the Hawks a 3-1 advantage.
With a head full of steam generated by the quality scoring chances they were getting, Chicago kept on pressing, and they were rewarded again just three minutes later. On a great shift by the team's third line, the Hawks got pressure in front of the net, and with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell on a screen, Pavelec had no chance to catch up to a Leddy shot from the point, as the Hawks defenseman scored his second goal of the season to give his team a 4-1 cushion, and also chased Pavelec from the game in the process.
The second period ended in much the same fashion as the rest of the period had been played, with the Hawks getting the vast majority of the chances and Crawford stopping any chances that came down the other way. At the end of the frame, the Hawks had been outshot again by a 10-7 margin, but their chances were of much higher quality than Winnipeg's, which mainly came from the point and low scoring areas in the slot.
The third period was a largely uneventful affair, with a couple of exceptions. The Hawks did get a penalty shot for Patrick Kane when Winnipeg defenseman (and former Columbus Blue Jacket) Grant Clitsome hooked him on a breakaway, but Kane was unable to beat fellow American Al Montoya and the game remained 4-1.
That score didn't last for long after that shot though, as Bollig picked up his second point of the game when his shot was deflected in by Ben Smith to put Chicago ahead 5-1. It was the third goal that the fourth line had been on the ice for in the game, and reflected just how thoroughly they had dominated the affair.
In the end, the Hawks were outshot by Winnipeg 27-25, but they still won a decisive victory thanks to great pressure on both ends and a good effort by Crawford. They will hope to carry that momentum into Sunday night when they take on the Calgary Flames at the United Center.