COLUMBUS, Ohio If the Blackhawks want to string a few victories together after that awful losing streak, theyre going to need their best players to be just that.
On Saturday afternoon they were.
Top liners Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane combined for eight points and Corey Crawford stopped 34 of 35 shots as the Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-1 at Nationwide Arena on Saturday afternoon. The Blackhawks won their second in a row and now have 69 points, just three points behind fifth-place Nashville.
The Blackhawks werent exactly a well-running machine all game; got off to a ragged start, trailing 1-0 when Derick Brassard scored off a Sami Lepisto turnover. But a cleaner game, a great goaltending performance and six unanswered goals later, the Blackhawks were wrapping up this grueling nine-game road trip on a positive note.
We had the low start and Toews had that nice goal to get us going. We played better the rest of the first period after that, said Duncan Keith, who had an assist and was a plus-4. We were able to make some nice plays and capitalize. But I still think defensively, were working on things.
Perhaps. But if the Blackhawks had a lapse on Saturday their goaltending came through for them. Crawford played one of his best games in some time, stopping everything after Brassards first-period goal.
He was huge, Sharp said of Crawford. Its a tough position: you take heat when you lose and get credit when you win. He was solid back there, really a staple in the defensive scheme.
Crawford said hes felt better about his game these last two starts.
Ive slowed things down, Crawford said. Im not moving around as much, Im being patient and reading the play a little bit better. Our guys are getting in shooting lanes, too.
With Crawford shoring up one end, the Blackhawks top line went to work at the other. Toews driving goal in the first period tied things up he also had two assists later -- and the Blackhawks never looked back. Sharp had a goal and two assists and Kane had an assist and his 13th goal of the season.
We worked hard, stayed patient and we knew the chances were going to come, Toews said. Consistently over 60 minutes we got those chances and those goals.
Viktor Stalbergs goal was his eighth against Columbus this season. Lepisto, who was benched for quite a while after that early turnover, came back to score his first goal in a Blackhawks uniform.
The Blackhawks didnt finish this road trip playing the perfect game. But considering how rough the first seven games of it were, they just needed to get some victories and get some confidence back, from goaltending on out.
Now they need to bring that home again, starting against a tough St. Louis Blues team. The confines get more familiar, but the schedule wont get easier.
Its been a long trip, coach Joel Quenneville said. Its going to be a quick morning, too.