Blackhawks

Crawford, Darling allow five goals as Blackhawks rocked by Hurricanes

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Crawford, Darling allow five goals as Blackhawks rocked by Hurricanes

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Blackhawks wanted to into the All-Star break with a better outing than they did heading into the Christmas one.

They didn’t.

Riley Nash scored two goals and Joakim Nordstrom scored against his former team as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Blackhawks, 5-0, on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks have lost three of their last four games, but they’ll nevertheless enter the break leading the Central Division with 70 points. Dallas remains in second with 67 points, and St. Louis is third with 64 points; neither the Stars nor Blues play again before the break.

Corey Crawford was pulled after allowing three goals on 16 shots in the first period. Scott Darling allowed two over the final 40 minutes. Jonathan Toews did not play at all in the third period. He’s been fighting illness the last few days, and as coach Joel Quenneville said, “he’s pretty run down."

The Blackhawks, who have had a busy schedule since coming out of the Christmas respite, looked sluggish in their last few games. That includes Tuesday, when the Hurricanes outmatched the Blackhawks in every aspect of their contest.

From the start the Hurricanes were ready. They created plenty of traffic and opportunities in front of Crawford and capitalized three times. A Jeff Skinner redirect gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead, and Nash scored the first of his two for a 2-0 advantage. Jean-Michael Liles scored his fifth of the season about 15 minutes into the third for a 3-0 Carolina lead.

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“It was pretty evident right from the beginning that we were in a lot of trouble tonight,” Quenneville said. “We lost every puck battle, every single race, and getting behind early was only bigger problems ahead of us. It was an ugly game across the board. Nothing positive came out of it, except it’s over.”

Indeed, things didn’t get much better in the second period, when Nordstrom scored for a 4-0 lead. It was Nordstrom’s third goal in as many games. Nash added his second less than two minutes later.

“We don’t like to make any excuses, but you look at the schedule, we probably played, three, four or five more games than other teams in the league,” Patrick Kane said. “I don’t know if it was bound to happen, but we had a good stretch there where we won 12 in a row. Obviously that got us to where we want to be going into this little break. Tough one tonight and ... it goes without saying we didn’t have our best tonight.”

The Blackhawks sputtered in their final week before the break, but their 12-game winning streak prior to that has them in a good place. They would’ve liked a better end to the break. They didn’t get it. Now they better rest up, because the stretch run isn’t going to be easy.

“The best thing to do right now is probably get away form the game for a few days, relax and get ready for the late push,” Kane said. “I’m sure when we come back we should have a sour taste in our mouth, especially after these last few games.”

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.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."