The Columbus Blue Jackets came into the United Center on a red-hot tear, but the Chicago Blackhawks made another huge statement on Friday night with a 3-1 victory.
Patrick Kane was once again the driving offensive force for the Blackhawks in the game, as the winger notched assists on all three goals. Artemi Panarin scored two of them, including a late empty-netter, and Corey Crawford made 32 saves as the Blackhawks won their second consecutive game over an Eastern Conference playoff team.
The game got off to a terrifying start for the Blackhawks, as they surrendered an early breakaway chance to Cam Atkinson. Crawford was able to make the stop however, and in the process the Blackhawks earned a power play less than 30 seconds into the contest.
Off the next face-off, the Blackhawks scored to take the lead. The puck worked its way to Kane in the slot, and the winger fired a pass to Panarin, who promptly deposited a shot behind Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Blackhawks an early advantage less than a minute in.
The Blackhawks continued to fire away and generate quality scoring chances as the first period wore on, but it was Columbus that ended up scoring the next goal. Off a turnover in the defensive zone, the Blackhawks were caught flat-footed, and eventually Nick Foligno scored on a wrister from the slot to tie things up at 1-1.
Less than a minute later, the Blackhawks struck again and seized the lead back. Brent Seabrook got a rush started by banking a pass off the boards and onto the stick of Kane, and the winger carried the puck all the way into the offensive zone. He then dished a pass across the ice to a wide open Marian Hossa, and the veteran winger didn’t miss as he executed a perfect deke to fool Bobrovsky and give the Blackhawks back a 2-1 lead.
That lead held through the second and third periods even as Columbus peppered Crawford with 22 shots on goal combined in those 40 minutes of action. The netminder made some huge stops, including a blocker save on a double-redirected shot off the stick of defenseman Seth Jones, and he made another one in the third period as Boone Jenner rifled a slap shot from the face-off circle, forcing Crawford to absorb the puck and avoid giving up a rebound.
Crawford’s quality play was rewarded in the final minute of the game, as Kane got the puck out of the offensive zone and found Panarin wide open across the blue line. The winger calmly slid the puck into the open net, and with that goal the Blackhawks got the insurance goal that they needed to cruise to victory.
The Blackhawks will finish off the home portion of their schedule on Sunday morning when they welcome the Boston Bruins to the United Center for an Original Six showdown. Puck drop is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., and fans can catch the game on NBC 5 Chicago.