WINNIPEG – The Chicago Blackhawks avoided the series sweep with a win in their fifth and final meeting off the season with the Winnipeg Jets Friday night.
The Blackhawks’ trio of Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov, and Artemi Panarin did the majority of the damage, each scoring once and combining for seven points, while Duncan Keith’s game-winner lifted the Hawks to a 5-2 win over the Jets at MTS Centre.
“I think we had a great first. That’s the way we want to play right there,” said Kane, who opened the scoring late in the first period with his 18th of the season. “Every line was going, we had a couple good power plays. We didn’t score on them, but had some chances, got the lead and great period overall. That’s the way we want to play.”
Coming into the game, Winnipeg had been 4-0-0 against the Blackhawks (34-17-5) this season, winning by a combined score of 14-5. This week, the Jets (25-28-4) have lost their last two games against division opponents, having previously been 6-0-0 at home against the Central Division.
“I think it’s even more important that we were in the same position against them the last time, up a goal in the third, and didn’t get the job done,” added Kane. “We did what we had to in the third. We kind of shut it down, didn’t give them too many chances, (and) when we did we had some great saves by (Crawford) so it was a great game all around tonight.”
Kane’s 269th-career goal passes Tony Amonte for the most all-time goals by an American in Blackhawks history, and into sixth in all-time franchise goals.
The goaltenders were busy in this one, as Chicago’s Corey Crawford captured his 22nd victory of the season with 28 saves, while Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck turned away 31 of the 34 shots he faced.
“(Hellebuyck was) real good. Busy overall, for sure early which is tough. You’d love to see him ease into a game,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice.
“It was lots of action to the net early in the game. It settled out — we trailed by one and found a way to get one at the four-minute mark instead of giving one up at the three-and-a-half-minute mark. And that was the difference in the game.”
Bryan Little’s 16th goal of the season — coming in just his 34th game of the season — tied the game early in the second period, and Adam Lowry scored his 10th with 1:11 remaining in the game.
“I thought we had a bit of a slow start. I thought they came out hungry and controlled a lot of the play early in the game and got that goal right away,” said Little. “I thought we did a good job in the second and the third battling back and getting our chances and making it a close game.”
Anisimov made it 2-1 Chicago midway through the second, as Kane set up Panarin for a one timer and Anisimov buried the rebound, moving him into a brief tie with Hossa for the team lead in goals at 19.
Keith’s eventual game-winner came with less than three minutes remaining, scoring his fifth of the season on a point-blast to make it 3-1 Chicago.
Hossa moved back into the team goal lead with a short-handed empty-netter, reaching the 20-goal mark for the 15th time in his career. Panarin added another into an empty net to ice it with 16 seconds left for his 19th of the season.
“I think, definitely, we played really good in our end,” said Hossa. “Obviously, Corey (Crawford) stood on his head tonight, but I think overall we’re improving defensively which is a good sign.”
The Jets, who completed six-consecutive matchups within the Central Division, finish up their current four-game home stand when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday and the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. The Blackhawks wrap up their second-longest road trip of the season, six games, in Edmonton against the Oilers on Saturday, completing a stretch of three games in four days.