Blackhawks remain unbeaten after edging Columbus

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Blackhawks remain unbeaten after edging Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio It certainly wasnt their prettiest game of their first five, but the Chicago Blackhawks found a way to win and continue their scorching start to the 2013 season.

Jonathan Toews notched the game-winner and Corey Crawford stopped 24-of-26 shots as the Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night. The Blackhawks, now 5-0-0, continue to get off to their best season start in 40 years.

Kane had two assists for the Blackhawks. Michael Frolik also added an assist.

Granted, it wasnt their sharpest game. The Blackhawks struggled out of the gate against the Blue Jackets, who showed more fire, speed and determination. At one point, Columbus was outshooting the Blackhawks 9-2, and Columbus took the early lead on Mark Letestus goal.

But the Blackhawks firepower came through eventually. Dave Bolland followed up on a Patrick Kane shot to tie it 1-1, then Bryan Bickell redirected Niklas Hjalmarssons shot to take a 2-1 advantage in the second period.

Toews added the eventual winner in the third period, taking Kanes pass and making a few quick moves before putting it past Steve Mason.

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Comfortable Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

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USA TODAY

Comfortable Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

PITTSBURGH – Well, that looked more familiar, didn’t it?

The Blackhawks put talk into action on Wednesday night, storming out to an early lead and never letting up in a 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re sitting in a good spot right now, sporting a nine-point lead over the Minnesota Wild – yes the Wild still has that game in hand – and, with five games remaining, they once again played the complete game they’d been missing.

The schedule doesn’t let up, so let’s get to the notables.

What Worked: The Blackhawks’ first period. If there’s such thing as a statement 20 minutes, the Blackhawks made it in Pittsburgh. If the Penguins made a bad pass, the Blackhawks turned it into an opportunity and, a few times, a goal. The Blackhawks had a similarly sharp first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. On Wednesday, however, they didn’t lose any steam later.

What Didn’t Work: The power play. Yeah, you really have to reach to find something that didn’t work for the Blackhawks in this one. Their power play, however, didn’t do much. Their best chance on it was a Jonathan Toews shot on their second power play; that shot was blocked before it got to Marc-Andre Fleury. Their third power play, which came on a phantom tripping call on Conor Sheary, was their quietest of the night.

Star of the game: Tanner Kero. The kid’s been alright at second-line center, and he did a little bit of everything on Wednesday night. Kero had five shots on goal, the secondary assist on Artemi Panarin’s early goal and added a breakaway goal of his own early in the third period. He also won five of 11 faceoffs. Centering Patrick Kane and Panarin could be daunting but in his short time there, Kero’s handling it very well.

He Said It: “It’s a nice opportunity that he’s taken advantage of in a short amount of time. You get a little more defensive responsibility. The upside with him is we wanted him to get better offensively as well, so it’s been a good couple of games.” Coach Joel Quenneville on Kero.

By the Numbers: 

850 – Career coaching victories for Quenneville.

524 – Career goals for Marian Hossa, who scored his 25th of the season late in the first period.

39 – Time, in seconds, in which the Blackhawks scored two goals late in the first period (Marcus Kruger at 19:05 and Marian Hossa at 19:44).

6 – Consecutive victories for the Blackhawks over the Penguins. They’ve outscored the Penguins 20-8 over that span.