The Chicago Blackhawks were looking for as strong of a game as possible before they went into the Christmas break. Team-wise and in some individual cases, they got that.
Patrick Sharp scored his 17th and 18th goals of the season and Patrick Kane extended his current point streak to 12 games as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Monday night. The Blackhawks, who were strong in every facet on Monday, have collected points in eight of their last nine games.
“We’re very happy with the game. We did everything we were looking to do,” said coach Joel Quenneville, who collected victory No. 686. “I liked our energy, our thought process, where we put pucks. The penalty kill was good and the power play was real good. We’re pleased.”
[WATCH: Coach Q liked Blackhawks' energy]
Marian Hossa had two assists, as did Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook. Nick Leddy had a power-play goal and an assist and Bryan Bickell had his first goal since Nov. 10 for the Blackhawks. Kane, who scored his 22nd goal in the second period, now has points in 24 of his last 25 games.
The Blackhawks got a strong performance across the board. Offensively it started with Sharp, who’s been finding his scoring groove as of late. Sharp’s first goal, a knuckler that eluded Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead. His second, a breakaway sparked by a Marian Hossa pass, gave the Blackhawks a 4-2 cushion they wouldn’t relinquish.
“It starts with the defense, making plays in the D zone,” Sharp said of the Blackhawks’ offense overall, specifically his second goal. “We’ve had great forwards here for a while who want the puck and want to score goals. But the better we play defensively, that’s’ when those things are going to happen. It’s nice to score and feel good about our game scoring, but when we’re playing good defense, that’s most important.”
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But as happy as they were with the goals they scored, they were just as pleased with the lack of shots they gave the Devils. New Jersey recorded just 12 shots, the fewest the Blackhawks have allowed this season – the previous low was 16 by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 5.
“We just worried about how we wanted to play our team structure, and tonight we did a good job of that,” said Duncan Keith, who had a game-high seven shots on goal. “When we focus on those things, it limits the other team’s chances when we’re doing it the way we can.”
Yes, New Jersey’s known more for its trap style game. But with proven offensive weapons like Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr, whose seven-game point streak was snapped tonight, you can never be too careful.
“For myself, Elias has always been one of my favorites. I played a hard-fought seven-game series against him a few years ago,” Kris Versteeg said. “You’re going to see him and Jagr and guys who can make plays out of nothing, but we held them to the outside and did what we needed to do.”
Still, the Devils did get two, including Michael Ryder’s unassisted goal that cut the Blackhawks’ lead to 3-2 just 59 seconds into the third period. But with Sharp’s breakaway and Leddy’s power-play goal later in the third, the Blackhawks quelled any possibility of a Devils comeback.
The Blackhawks held New Jersey to very little while they created quite a lot. They wanted a strong, decisive performance before the holiday break. They got it.
“Everybody’s happy. The coaches will have a beautiful Christmas, same for players,” Hossa said. “It’s just good atmosphere, and that’s important.”