Blackhawks beat Blue Jackets 3-2; extend winning streak to five


It wasn't their prettiest win of the season, but the Chicago Blackhawks played well enough to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 in a physical game on Saturday night.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford played another strong game en route to his fourth win of the season, stopping 24 shots on 26 attempts.
Columbus started fast against their Central Division rival, controlling play for much of the first period as they outshot Chicago 8-1 over the first ten minutes. Their early tenacity was rewarded when Blue Jackets forward Mark Letestu opened the scoring at the tail end of their first power play on a mad scramble in front of the net. After a flurry of in-close saves by Crawford, Letestu was finally able to lift one into the goal for his first of the season.
However, the Blue Jackets lead was to be short-lived, as Dave Bolland evened it up at one with just over two minutes remaining in the first.
Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin sailed a shot wide of the Hawks cage and Patrick Kane turned it up ice, driving hard to the net. Steve Mason made an impressive kick save as Kane tried to dangle around him, but Bolland was trailing the play and quickly deposited the rebound over the Columbus goaltender.
Crawford kept the game tied at one on a tense sequence in the second period, stoning Columbus on a pair of point-blank shorthanded opportunities.
Less than two minutes later the Hawks took the lead on Bryan Bickell's first of the year. Bickell forced a turnover by veteran left winger Vinny Prospal deep in his own defensive zone and headed straight towards the net. That net-front presence paid off quickly when Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson then fired off a shot from the point that was redirected by Bickell into the cage.
Columbus appeared to tie the game on another power play goal just over 12 minutes into the second by virtue of a Nick Foligno redirection but the referee immediately waved it off, ruling that Foligno had interfered with Crawford. A weak call, to be sure, and one that sent the home crowd up in a chorus of sustained booing for much of the remaining period.
Chicago would extend their lead to two by capitalizing on another defensive zone turnover by Columbus. Letestu failed to clear the puck at his own blue line, allowing Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane to get the puck down low to captain Jonathan Toews all alone in front of Mason. Toews went forehand, backhand, forehand, and slid the puck under the outstretched glove of the Columbus net-minder for his third of the season and second in as many games. 
Off-season acquisition Artem Anisimov brought Columbus within one with just over two minutes to go in regulation, as he shoveled a failed wrap-around attempt by fellow former-Ranger Brandon Dubinsky over Crawford's shoulder from the top of the crease. However, it would prove to be too little, too late as Chicago was able to shut the door defensively the rest of the way.
The Blackhawks will look to remain undefeated on Sunday afternoon as they play host to their division rival Detroit Red Wings.
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Final Score: Blackhawks 3, Blue Jackets 2
Chicago goals: Bolland, Bickell, Toews (GWG)
Columbus goals: Letestu (PPG), Anisimov
Three Stars:
3) Niklas Hjalmarsson - CHI
2) Artem Anisimov - CBJ
1) Patrick Kane - CHI
Winning goalie: Corey Crawford, 2 GA / 0.923 SV%
Losing goalie: Steve Mason, 3 GA / 0.875 SV%
Next game: Sunday 1/27 vs. Detroit Red Wings, United Center, Chicago
Follow our Blackhawks writers at @TCLBlackhawks, you can follow me at @themjm