WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Corey Crawford thought it was the best game the Chicago Blackhawks have played all season. Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz agreed.
The trio played a big role Thursday night as the Blackhawks extended their season-high winning streak to four with a 5-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
Kane and Schmaltz each had a goal and an assist. Vinnie Hinostroza, Tommy Wingels and Michal Kempny also scored for the Blackhawks (16-11-5), and Crawford made 27 saves in the first of five meetings this season between the Central Division foes.
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Crawford described it as his team’s ”best effort” and ”best overall game” this season.
”We just played everything great,” he said. ”Our (defensemen) were solid. We didn’t give up that many chances, a lot of stuff to the outside.
”Guys were blocking shots, a lot of great plays offensively. That’s definitely a big win for us.”
Nikolaj Ehlers thwarted Crawford’s shutout bid when he scored a power-play goal at 5:35 of the third period. He has a goal in each of his past four games.
The loss ended Winnipeg’s string of seven straight wins at home.
”They were blocking everything,” said Ehlers, who scored his 15th goal of the season. ”At times, we waited too long to shoot the puck instead of just getting it to the net, but they were getting set and they were able to get into that shooting lane. So that’s something that we need to do better as well.”
Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves for the Jets (18-9-5). Hellebuyck had been unbeaten in regulation at home this season (11-1-1).
Chicago led 3-0 after the first period and 4-0 after two. The Blackhawks scored on their first, second and fifth shots of the game.
”That’s probably the biggest win this year, coming up against maybe the hottest team in the league,” said Kane, who scored his 12th of the season.
Hinostroza got the Blackhawks going when he teamed up on a 2-on-1 with Patrick Sharp to beat Hellebuyck at 1:50 of the first period. Wingels scored after a Jets turnover at 6:08, and Schmaltz made it 3-0 midway through the first.
Jets coach Paul Maurice shuffled his lines after going down 3-0, switching Kyle Connor off the first line and bumping Ehlers up from the second.
”We’ve got four shots on goal and we’re down 3-0. I moved some people around,” Maurice said. ”I liked Kyle’s game kind of all-around where he played.
”Nik Ehlers has been playing pretty well – that’s the fourth game he’s scored. He’s been skating pretty well. It was fine. It certainly didn’t slow us down, but it didn’t change the course of events that much.”
Kane scored the only goal in the second, and Kempny added his first of the season three minutes after Ehlers scored.
”Tonight was one of those nights where it seemed like the easiest plays were real difficult,” Jets forward Adam Lowry said. ”We were hitting refs’ skates, we were hitting the shafts of sticks and we were missing 2-foot, 3-foot passes. It caused for a long night.”
Chicago led 23-14 in shots after two.
”I thought our first two periods were great,” Schmaltz said. ”Let them back in, I took a penalty there, but (Crawford) made some really big saves for us. Even though it was 5-1, it could have been tighter than that. He made some unbelievable saves, as always.”
NOTES: Winnipeg forward Matt Hendricks had a goal disallowed because the referee ruled Crawford had the puck under his pad and Hendricks pushed it in.
Blackhawks: Host the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.
Jets: At the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
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