WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Jonathan Toews’ first trip back to his hometown was full of pregame hoopla, followed by a quiet game, offense-wise for the Chicago Blackhawks captain.
On Thursday, the fanfare was more the byproduct of a tremendous on-ice performance.
Toews had a goal and three assists, and Marian Hossa returned from a lower-body injury with a goal and a helper in the Blackhawks’ 6-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. It was a good rebound outing for the Blackhawks, who will be without Bryan Bickell (left-leg injury) for the next 2-3 weeks.
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For Toews, who set up Hossa’s game-winner 3:11 into the third period, it was obviously extra rewarding to have that kind of night back home.
“We got momentum and we got a couple of bounces here and there,” he said. “It’s nice to see some results. You’ll take that, and it’s especially special to have that happen here in Winnipeg.”
Perhaps it was just Toews’ night. Perhaps he could just come into this game more relaxed. Toews’ first regular-season NHL game in his hometown was on Nov. 2, and it came with plenty of furor, interview requests and anticipation. Tonight, it was just another visit to Winnipeg, and Toews made the most of it.
“He was special tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He was great in the faceoff circle in the first, had an unbelievable goal in the second and an unbelievable pass in the third. He was real good.”
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The Blackhawks’ top players were all over the score sheet on Thursday, from Toews to Hossa to Patrick Kane (power-play goal) to Patrick Sharp (empty-net goal). And despite some team hiccups and a second-period rebuttal from the Jets, the Blackhawks rebounded well from Tuesday’s loss in Colorado.
“I really liked the way we played tonight,” Quenneville said. “I thought we answered the bell at the start of the game, and answered when they had that run in the second. We had excellent first and third periods and did a lot of good things to play the right away.”
Corey Crawford stopped 22 of 25 shots for the victory.
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“Everyone in this room knew we could come back with a solid performance,” Crawford said “It’s another case where the last game we still created enough chances to be in it, but it was obviously not the best start. We don’t want to start games like that when we’re down by a bunch of goals and have to chase. Tonight was better, and it was a good road win.”
Kane’s goal got the Blackhawks up 1-0 in the first period, with Brandon Saad capitalizing on a Hossa feed for a 2-0 lead early in the second. Then things got very interesting. Just 19 seconds after Saad’s goal Bryan Little drew in two Blackhawks defenders and passed to a wide-open Andrew Ladd, who cut the Blackhawks lead to 2-1. A mere 29 seconds after that goal, Jets defenseman Keaton Ellerby tied it at 2-2. Forty-eight seconds yielded three goals between two teams.
The third period, however, belonged to the Blackhawks. Hossa scored his 10th of the year, Ben Smith scored his third of the season and Sharp capped it with the empty-netter.
Outside of some nail-biting moments in the second, the Blackhawks were playing their style of hockey again on Thursday. The hometown guy was noticeable. So was the total team effort.
“We started better. Maybe we had a second period like the games in Colorado and Nashville but we responded with a good third, too,” Toews said. “We were protecting that lead in the third. We were playing smart, and realized we had to stay out of the box.”