The Winnipeg Jets came into Tuesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks down their top four defensemen, but their offense more than made up for the absences as they blew out the Hawks by a score of 5-1 at the United Center.
Mathieu Perreault led the Jets with two goals in the game as they sent the Hawks into their Christmas break on a down note. Marian Hossa had the lone tally of the day for the Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford was pulled after surrendering three first period goals.
The game got off to a flying start as both teams tried to establish a fast tone early on. Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews each had shots early, but Michael Hutchinson shut down both chances. Evander Kane got a chance at the other end of the ice for Winnipeg, but Corey Crawford made a nifty glove save to keep the game scoreless.
Slowly but surely, the Jets continued to gather momentum, and about nine minutes into the game they seized the lead. Michael Frolik drove into the zone in between two Hawks defenders, and he tapped a pass backwards to Perreault. The forward then ripped a shot past Crawford to give Winnipeg an early 1-0 advantage.
The Jets continued their assault over the next few minutes, and they scored again as a result. This time it was Bryan Little doing the honors, grabbing a pass from Andrew Ladd and wristing a shot off of Johnny Oduya’s stick and just under the crossbar to make it a 2-0 game.
A little over two minutes later, the Jets scored again. Anthony Peluso scored his first goal of the season as Crawford failed to cover the puck next to the net, and Peluso dragged the puck across and flipped it in to give the Jets a three-goal lead.
Early in the second period, the Blackhawks tried to stage a comeback, but Hutchinson continued his solid play in net. Michal Rozsival had the big chance early on as he tried to redirect a pass from Kris Versteeg, but it skipped just wide of the net. Bickell also had a chance just in front of the net, but Hutchinson covered the puck up before the big winger could get his stick blade into the blue paint.
The missed opportunities came back to haunt the Hawks a few minutes later as the Jets extended their lead. Blake Wheeler made a decent screen in front of Antti Raanta near the front of the net, and Perreault took advantage as he fired home a high, hard shot to put Winnipeg ahead by a 4-0 margin.
A few minutes later, the Blackhawks were able to get a goal on the board. Hossa broke into the offensive zone on a breakaway, and he calmly deposited a shot past Hutchinson to make it a 4-1 game with about eight minutes to go in the second period.
In the final moments of the period, both teams had excellent chances to score, but neither could convert. Marcus Kruger fired in a shot on goal, and Hutchinson gave out a huge rebound. Kane couldn’t quite get enough on the shot to muscle it past the goaltender, and he made another save. At the other end, Frolik got a breakaway chance, but Raanta made a key blocker save. Finally, Kane finished off the hectic madness with a shot on goal, but Hutchinson made a big save to keep the Jets up by three goals after two periods.
That frantic pace was nowhere to be found as the third period began. The Hawks struggled to move the puck around the ice, and the Jets were more than happy to just play keep away and clog up the neutral zone. Both teams got power plays in the middle stages of the frame, but neither could convert as the energy level never rose above DEFCON-4.
With about five minutes to go, Joel Quenneville pulled Raanta in an effort to spark the team’s offense, but the move quickly backfired as Blake Wheeler stole the puck at the blue line and rifled a shot down the ice. It hit off the inside of the post and went into the goal, giving Winnipeg a 5-1 lead late.
The Blackhawks will take three days off (along with the rest of the NHL) for Christmas, then return to the ice on Saturday night when they travel to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche.