Stalberg nets hat trick, Hawks beat Blue Jackets 5-2
It wasn't necessarily pretty, but it was a badly needed victory for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks were able to overcome 42 penalty minutes to snap a 4-game losing streak and earn their first win of 2012.
Things did not start out well for the Blackhawks. They were outshot 11-5 in a scoreless first period and experienced their biggest scare of the season to date.
A Duncan Keith slap shot was deflected off the skate of a diving Blue Jacket and connected right on the left temple of Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. Toews immediately lost his balance and fell head-first into the post. To add insult to injury, the puck richocheted off Toews, then off the post and out.
For the next 10 minutes or so, the United Center was quiet as Toews was taken back to the lockerroom immediately. Extreme elation followed once Toews came back on the ice with stitches above his left eye, seemingly ok and without a concussion.
In the second period, the Blackhawks got caught shorthanded after the Blue Jackets' Jared Boll put a hit on Niklas Hjalmarsson, prompting Jamal Mayers to retaliate and get into a fight with Boll. Mayers was given an instigator penalty on top of a 5 minute fighting major and a 10 minute misconduct.
The penalties might have actually sparked the Blackhawks, as Marian Hossa made a great play in the neutral zone on the penalty kill, leading to a 2-on-2 the other way. Hossa found a streaking Dave Bolland who went backhand to forehand to beat Curtis Sanford, putting the Blackhawks up 1-0 in the second period.
A few minutes later, Columbus tied things up at 1 after R.J. Umberger jumped on a loose puck in front of the crease.
From then on, it was the Viktor Stalberg show.
With under 5 minutes left in the 2nd, Patrick Kane made a great feed from behind the goal line finding Stalberg crashing the net. Stalberg got just just enough on the shot to get it to squeak through Sanford's five-hole, putting the Hawks up 2-1. It was Stalberg's 10th goal of the season, 6 of which have come against Columbus.
The Hawks essentially put the game away 6 minutes into the 3rd period. On a delayed penatly, the Hawks had an extra skater and Stalberg benefitted, netting home a big rebound to make it a 3-1 game. 27 seconds later, Ben Smith got into the zone and sent a soft backhand past Sanford's glove, putting the Hawks up 4-1.
After an Antoine Vermette rebound goal to make it 4-2, Stalberg put the Blue Jackets away with an empty-netter, displaying some of his world-class speed to beat everyone back to a loose puck and get his 3rd goal of the night for his first career hat-trick.
The 5-2 victory was a much-needed 2 points for the Blackhawks, allowing them to keep pace with first-place St. Lous at 55 points, who shut out the Montreal Canadiens. Detroit, still with 53 points, lost to the Islanders.
Corey Crawford was in net once again for the Blackhawks. Despite giving up some juicy rebounds, he played a very solid game, stopping 32 of 34 shots faced.
The Blackhawks played a solid game after a slow, and scary, start. The number two defensive pairing of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy was finally split up, but it didn't seem to help Leddy much, as he was on the ice, paired with Duncan Keith, for both Columbus goals.
Ben Smith was quiet for most of the game, filling in for the injured Patrick Sharp, but was able to get a goal, albeit a soft one. He had 7:34 of ice time. The rookie duo of Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw continued their good play, both proving they aren't afraid to get to the front of the net. The Blackhawks veterans, mainly guys like Bryan Bickell and Andrew Brunette, may want to take notice.
3) R.J. Umberger, CBJ - 1 G, 0 A
2) Marian Hossa, CHI - O G, 1 A
1) Viktor Stalberg - 3 G, 0 A
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