After rattling off three straight wins – albeit not all three of them pretty – against three struggling teams at the United Center, the Blackhawks traveled to Winnipeg for a much stronger test on Thursday night. The Jets came in 11-2-1 at home and six points in front of the Hawks in the standings.
Chicago needed to start fast and get production from all over their roster, and that’s exactly what they got.
Vinnie Hinostroza got his first goal in the NHL this season at 1:50 into the first to get the party started.
Patrick Sharp picked up the assist on the Hinostroza goal.
With the third line on the board, Chicago’s fourth line stepped up next. Tommy Wingels stayed hot, scoring his fifth of the year at 6:08 into the first.
Lance Bouma and Ryan Hartman were initially credited with assists on the Wingels goal, but Hartman’s was taken away during the first intermission.
There’s no way the bottom two lines were going to get all of the action. Ten minutes into the first, Patrick Kane set up Duncan Keith for a blast from the point and Nick Schmaltz got a piece to slip it past Connor Hellebuyck and into the back of the Winnipeg net.
The goal, Schmaltz’s sixth of the year, gave Chicago three goals on their first five shots on net against Hellebuyck, who has been very good for the Jets all season.
Neither team had a power play in the first period and the Hawks finished the opening 20 minutes with a 12-6 shot advantage and a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard.
Of course, the fear is that the Blackhawks would take their foot off the gas and let a good Jets team back into the game after a dominant first period.
But that wasn’t the case in the second.
Chicago got a power play with Jacob Trouba in the box early in the second but – you guessed it – did nothing with the advantage. But six minutes after the power play ended Chicago’s second line got back into the mix.
Schmaltz outworked the Winnipeg defense to catch up to a loose puck in front of the net and made an absolutely ridiculous pass across the crease to Kane who put home the easy goal to extend the lead to four.
Chicago killed off a Jonathan Toews penalty later in the period before Andrew Copp decided to be stupid and take a roughing penalty.
The Blackhawks did nothing with their second power play of the game as well. I’m as shocked as you.
Chicago out-shot Winnipeg 10-8 in the second and carried a 4-0 lead to the third period. Corey Crawford’s game was on point once again, and the Hawks were showing speed all over the ice.
Schmaltz went to the box for tripping at 5:30 into the third and Nikolaj Ehlers scored his 15th of the season to end Crawford’s shutout bid and cut the lead to 4-1.
A little less than three minutes after the Ehlers goal, Michal Kempny – playing for the first time in 13 games – fired a missile into the back of the net to push the lead back to four.
Brent Seabrook was credited with the assist on the Kempny goal.
Patrik Laine took a frustration penalty, boarding Hinostroza at 12:48 but the Hawks wasted another advantage.
The rest of the way was all Crawford, who slammed the door shut as the Hawks ran away with a strong 5-1 victory in Winnipeg.
Schmaltz and Kane were the only Hawks with two points in the game. Seabrook led the way with four shots on net and four blocked shots. The Blackhawks were credited with two hits in the game, both from John Hayden (both in the first period).
Crawford allowed only one goal, the tenth time this season he’s allowed one or fewer goals in a game; he stopped 27 of 28 in the win. Half of Winnipeg’s shots came in the third period.
Kempny skated 16:30 with three shots on goal and was plus-three in the game. Chicago is now 7-6-1 in Kempny games this year.
Wingels’ goal held up as the game-winner.