The Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks played in Manitoba on Saturday, but despite the scene changing, the narrative remained the same as the Hawks picked up an easy 4-1 victory over the Jets at the United Center on Wednesday night.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brandon Pirri, and Patrick Sharp all scored goals for the Hawks, and Corey Crafword made 23 saves in the winning effort. The victory gives the Hawks their third straight victory against a Central Division opponent after going 0-2-1 in their first three divisional games, and pushed their overall record on the season to 10-2-4.
It isn’t often that the first shift of a game sets the tone for the entire 60 minutes, but that’s exactly what happened for the Hawks. The top line of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa came out firing early in the game, peppering Chicago native Al Montoya with shots from all over the ice. They didn’t score on that opening shift, but it was a good bit of foreshadowing for what was to come through the remainder of the game.
Even still though, the Jets made it clear that they weren’t going to give up just because of quality play early by Chicago. Eric Tangradi snared a pass at center ice and started to move in on a breakaway, but Nick Leddy used a combination of blazing speed and excellent stick work to force Tangradi off the puck and not allow a good shot by the Jets forward.
Later in the period, the Hawks finally struck. Coming off a successful penalty kill, head coach Joel Quenneville loaded up the Hawks’ forward group, and Toews snared a stretch pass from Brent Seabrook to set up a 2-on-1 rush with Kane. Toews’ behind the back pass found Kane, but he wasn’t able to beat Montoya with the shot. After Duncan Keith kept the puck in the zone, it was Sharp who found Toews with a pass, and the captain deked Montoya out of his pads to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
In the waning seconds of the first period, the Hawks struck again. This time, it was Brandon Saad who set things up nicely, getting in front of Montoya and providing a terrific screen for Kane, who held onto the puck long enough to see a lane open up, and he uncorked a wicked snap shot past Montoya to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead going into the intermission.
The Hawks continued to get great pressure on the Jets throughout the second period, with Hossa showing great anticipation on a breakaway up the ice. Johnny Oduya found Hossa with a great pass through the zone, but Hossa couldn’t beat Montoya, and the score stayed 2-0. Just a few minutes later though, it was Pirri who actually succeeded on a break, as he showed great awareness as the Jets collapsed in on Michal Rozsival and Ben Smith along the boards in the neutral zone. Smith’s pass found Pirri’s stick, and Pirri didn’t miss as he fired a top shelf beauty past Montoya to give the Hawks a 3-0 lead after two periods.
Just four minutes into the third period, the Jets once again fell victim to the excellent play of the Hawks’ top line. A great possession by that group continued when Keith forced a turnover by Blake Wheeler, and Sharp promptly took the puck and fired it over Montoya’s shoulder to give the Hawks a 4-0 lead. It was Sharp’s fourth goal of the season, and seemed to be the final icing on the cake for Chicago.
The Jets still had one last gasp left in them. Former Blackhawk Dustin Byfuglien fired a slap shot from the point that hit traffic in front, and the puck eventually found its way onto the stick of Devin Setoguchi, who buried the rebound to bring the Jets back to within a 4-1 gap.