COLUMBUS, Ohio – The plan for Chicago was to use the final 10 games starting with Columbus to find a groove heading into the playoffs.
Well, they’re going to have to reset that to nine games.
Antoine Vermette had two goals and an assist, and the Blue Jackets scored four second-period goals to hand the Blackhawks their worst loss of the season, 8-3 on Thursday night.
Even though Chicago missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth on their own, the good news was that they secured a spot when Calgary lost to the New York Islanders.
“Across the board, from the first shift to the end of the game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of the meltdown. “There’s nothing to be excited about. Discount it and throw it in the garbage can.”
On this night, Chicago didn’t look like the team with 99 points, eager to fine-tune their play and anoint their playoff netminder. Starter Cristobal Huet was pulled in the second for Antti Niemi with the score 5-1 and put back in to start the third.
“I don’t think anybody played good tonight,” Quenneville added. “(Huet) had a tough night. It can happen, but it was contagious tonight.”
Jackub Voracek scored on a penalty shot and added two assists, and Kristian Huselius also scored twice, while Mike Commodore, Andrew Murray, and rookie Mike Blunden also found the net for the Blue Jackets, 14th in the West.
Samuel Pahlsson had two assists and Steve Mason made 38 saves.
The eights goals for the Blue Jackets set a mark for most scored at home and tied the franchise record for most in a game.
“It wasn’t an outcome we anticipated,” Columbus interim coach Claude Noel said. “They are a very good team, and we certainly have a lot of respect for them. Their goaltending struggled a bit tonight and that showed in the result of the game.”
The Blackhawks have allowed 21 goals in their last six games and are 5-5-2 since the Olympic break.
Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Adam Burish scored for Chicago.
The Blue Jackets enjoyed a 2-0 lead after the first and skated off after the second with a commanding 6-1 advantage.
Commodore scored his first goal in 75 games, banking a shot from a sharp-angle deep in the corner along the goal line off Huet at the 32 second mark.
“I’m just glad it went in,” the defenceman Commodore said. “It was a nice way to start the game.”
Just past the midpoint, Huselius converted into an open net on a tic-tac-toe passing combination with Rick Nash and Vermette near the Chicago goal.
The Blackhawks looked as if they would get back into the game on Versteeg’s early second period tally, his 17th, a floating wrist shot.
But the Blue Jackets responded with the next four to close out the period.
“I thought the second period set the tone for the game,” Huselius said. “We played really well and keep the momentum up going into the third.”
Voracek was then awarded a penalty shot when Niklas Hjalmarsson took him down on a breakaway at 11:02.
He beat Huet with a backhand shot for his 14th of the season and the sixth penalty shot goal in franchise history.
“I didn’t do the backhand move for awhile so I just tried it,” the second-year right winger said. “I was a litle bit lucky because it went under his arm.”
NOTES: Columbus would have been officially eliminated from playoff contention with a loss. … The Blue Jackets announced they have parted ways with the Syracuse Crunch, their minor league affiliate of 10 seasons and have signed a one-year contract with the Springfield Falcons, also of the AHL. … The teams will close out their season series on Saturday in Chicago. … Blackhawks C Dave Bolland was a late scratch due to an illness.