By Jon Fromi
The Columbus Blue Jackets proved to be just what the doctor ordered for a Chicago Blackhawks club that had lost three straight. The ‘Hawks got back in the win column Thursday at Nationwide Arena, doubling up the Blue Jackets 6-3. Chicago was paced by a three-point night by Jonathan Toews and a Gordie Howe hat trick by Steve Montador.
Chicago, who failed to score a goal Tuesday in St. Louis, got on the board 6:54 into the game. Brent Seabrook brought the puck up the right side and passed to Toews as he entered the Blue Jackets zone. Toews returned the puck to Seabrook, who took it behind the net and to Viktor Stalberg. Toews knocked in the resulting rebound given by Steve Mason and Chicago owned a 1-0 advantage.
Stalberg was called for hooking with 10:25 to go in the opening period, and Columbus wasted little time in tying the contest. Following the faceoff that started the power play, Derick Brassard’s shot was blocked, but Grant Clitsome settled the puck down and fired a slapshot that escaped the view of Corey Crawford.
Toews put Chicago back on top late in the period, taking a pass from Nick Leddy and firing a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle with 2:51 left to make it 2-1 Blackhawks.
Chicago broke out of a huge power play slump with a pair of goals with the man advantage in the second period. With a Jared Boll roughing penalty carrying over into the second, Andrew Brunette stuffed in a rebound by Marcus Kruger 85 seconds in to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead. Midway through the period, Duncan Keith chased down a loose puck into the corner and found a wide open Montador in the slot for his first goal of the season.
As the teams approached the final minute of the second, Daniel Carcillo sent a pass out of the ‘Hawks zone to Patrick Kane, who had been a bit late on his back check. At the 18:54, Kane went forehand-backhand on the breakaway attempt. His aim was true, and Chicago went to the dressing room up 5-1 as boos rained down on Mason and his teammates.
The Blackhawks tacked on a final insult to Mason seconds into the third period. The beleaguered goalie had his outlet pass stolen by Stalberg, setting up a Chicago assault on the net that ended when Marian Hossa tapped in a rebound from Toews past Mason to make it 6-1. The Blue Jackets would tally the final two goals of the contest, a power play wrister by Mark Letestu a few minutes later and another slap shot by Clitsome with under four minutes to play.
-Carcillo took a puck in the mouth midway through the first, got stitched up and was back in action in time to feed Kane for his goal.
-Montador’s Gordie Howe was complete by the time he knocked in his rare power play goal, having been placed on the second unit by Joel Quenneville yesterday. The fight came midway through the first with Derek Dorsett, and he assisted on Brunette’s goal.
-It would be nice to see him paired with Sami Lepisto tomorrow night against Calgary instead of John Scott, who skated another 11:48 last night. Scott was even for the night but was the only Blackhawks defenseman without a point in the contest. He logged three hits, but his hooking penalty led to a goal. I guess Quenneville proved Scott is capable of wobbling around in third pairing minutes with the league’s worst team and not bring about the end of days. Congratulations. Now use an actual defenseman for the Flames.
-Corey Crawford wasn’t particularly sharp Thursday, though he did stop 14 Columbus shots in the second period, some impressively. He could probably stand to take the night off Friday in favor of Ray Emery.
-Rick Nash recorded his 500th career point when he assisted on Letestu’s goal in the third, but was a team-worst minus-three on the night and came up empty on several choice opportunities.
-Chicago didn’t exactly groin stomp a quality opponent, but two points is two points. Columbus is seeing their season spiraling down the tubes, but I saw the ‘Hawks drop several games to inferior teams at this time last season. Putting it that way, you can’t say they didn’t take care of business Thursday.