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Blackhawks power play finds a cure in Columbus

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Blackhawks power play finds a cure in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio Ugly losses against Vancouver and St. Louis had the Blackhawks stewing, and they needed to put that angst back in their game.

So on Thursday they took their frustrations out on the Blue Jackets.

Jonathan Toews scored two goals and Steve Montador recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick in the Blackhawks 6-3 victory over Columbus at Nationwide Arena. The Blackhawks, who were without center Dave Bolland, stopped their two-game losing streak clicking twice on the power play and re-igniting their offense.

And it started and sometimes ended with the Blackhawks defensemen, who combined for eight points on Thursday night. Brent Seabrook and Nick Leddy each had two assists.

I think that makes a big difference when were part of the attack, said Duncan Keith. It alleviates some of the pressure on our forwards, as far as giving them some room. All of the defensemen were better at that tonight.

That includes Montador, who got his goal his first of the season and his assist on his first night on the Blackhawks power play. As Toews said, he made a good argument to be out there. That, coupled with his first-period fight with former Blackhawks defenseman James Wisniewski, earned him the Howe trick.

Hes the first Blackhawks player to have one since March 27, 2009, when Seabrook did it in a 3-2 overtime victory over the New Jersey Devils.

I wanted to have success. I didnt picture this exactly but its definitely exciting to be part of contributing to the success, he said. Sometimes you get on the score sheet, sometimes you dont. Its just about being in front of the net, so its pretty familiar. You have to be an outlet for someone.

Andrew Brunette scored his third power-play goal of the season. Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa also scored; Corey Crawford stopped 27 of 30 for the victory.

The Blackhawks wanted to get going quick on Thursday night and, for the most part, did that. Scoring five straight goals from Toews late first-period score to Hossas early third-period one didnt hurt their cause, either.

Neither did scoring on that much-maligned power play.

Were not talking about (power-play) rank this or that; were just going to stick with it, Toews said with a grin. It doesnt matter who scores the goals or how. Its just the fact that one of our units can go out there and make something happen. Thats what youre looking for.

The Blackhawks defensive core is deep and experienced. On Thursday, they were also the teams biggest catalysts for breaking out of the mini-slump.

I thought our D was very noticeable tonight, coach Joel Quenneville said. We create so much off that and our team game really picks up. It seemed like we had better rotation (on the forward lines), but I thought the D was spearheading the attack.

Kane-like goal?
Jonathan Toews second goal on Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason was from a deep angle, one very similar to the one Patrick Kane had on his Stanley Cup-winning goal two seasons ago.

I dont think Kaner would admit he was shooting for a rebound there, said Toews, who added thats what he was trying to do. I think it just fooled him. It was a tricky shot and it happened to sneak through. I dont think youre going to get that same statement out of (Kane).

Bolland out

Dave Bolland was out of Thursday nights game. Bolland, who blocked a shot off his right foot against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, was seen wearing a walking boot on Thursday. His status for Fridays game against the Calgary Flames is unknown.

Briefly

Daniel Carcillo took an unknown number of stitches in his upper and bottom lip after taking a puck to the mouth. He returned to finish the game, assisting on Kanes breakaway goal.

In honor of Veterans Day, the Blackhawks will sport their camouflage jerseys in warmups when they host the Flames on Friday night.

Nick Leddys eight assists are the most among Blackhawks defenseman.

Marian Hossas goal was his team-leading eighth. Jonathan Toews is next with seven.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.