CHICAGO – Cristobal Huet and the Chicago Blackhawks showed they could bounce back convincingly – and do it against one of the NHL’s top teams.
Huet stopped 26 shots, and Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist to lead the Blackhawks past the New Jersey Devils, 5-1 on Thursday night.
Troy Brouwer, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd and John Madden also scored for Chicago, which improved to 57 points, remaining two behind NHL-leading San Jose. The Blackhawks won for the fourth time in five games and are 8-2-0 in their last 10.
Huet lost a bid for his fourth shutout when Jamie Langenbrunner scored with 1:33 left in the third after stripping the puck from defenceman Duncan Keith.
“I thought he was real good early, and in the first eight minutes of the second period, rock solid,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “I liked how we played as a team across the board as well.”
Huet rebounded from a shaky outing in his last start, when he allowed four goals on 10 shots Tuesday in Dallas before being pulled early in the second period. Chicago went on to lose that game, 5-4.
“I take pride in trying to regroup after a bad game, try to take away the negative,” Huet said. “The team played well in front of me.”
New Jersey, which also has 57 points, is still in first place in the East after only its second loss in nine games. And the established Devils are a team the young Blackhawks wanted to beat.
“We don’t see New Jersey too often, but it’s a game we can definitely get up for,” Toews said. “Points like that will keep us at the top of our division and conference.
“There’s definitely something to prove. “Hopefully we sent a message tonight.”
Huet bested New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, who finished with 31 saves in a battle of teams with the NHL’s top two defensive records. Among Huet’s best stops were a left pad save on Zach Parise’s breakaway attempt, and Travis Zajac’s quick shot from a faceoff early in the third.
Brodeur had made 32 saves on Wednesday in a 2-0 win over Pittsburgh to earn his 105th career shutout. On Thursday, however, the Devils played their third game in four nights and couldn’t keep pace with Chicago for much of the contest.
“I think they made us look tired,” Brodeur said. “They dictated the game. At the end of the day when they got a 2-0 lead it got tough for us.”
Langenbrunner stopped short of saying the Devils were dragging after a tough, but successful stretch against top Eastern Conference teams that included two shutout wins against the Stanley Cup champion Penguins in the last five games.
“We’ll never make the excuse we’re out of gas,” Langenbrunner said. “Obviously (Wednesday) was a divisional, emotional game we played well.
“Tonight we didn’t play well; that’s the bottom line,” he added. “They did a lot of good things that made it worse for us and made us look more off, but we weren’t at our best.”
Chicago’s Patrick Kane added an assist and has seven goals and four assists in a six-game, point-scoring streak. Kane leads all Americans in the NHL in points with 45 on 17 goals and 28 assists, and is expected to be chosen to the U.S. Olympic team on Friday.
Chicago defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson was struck with a puck while on the bench early in the third period and left the game.
The Blackhawks took control midway through the first, grabbing a 2-0 lead on goals by Brouwer and Eager 1:45 apart on consecutive shots late in the period.
The Devils had killed 10 straight penalties and 18 of 19 before Brouwer’s power-play goal. Eager made it 2-0 from the slot when he backhanded Colin Fraser’s feed from behind the net between Brodeur’s pads.
Ladd completed a 2-on-1 with Patrick Sharp 2:12 into the second to extend Chicago’s lead to 3-0. Huet made some of his best saves early and midway through the second, as the Devils began to generate some offence.
Toews made it 4-0 at 4:41 of the third when he stripped the puck from Johnny Oduya in the Devils zone, moved in alone and beat Brodeur with a high shot on the glove side.
NOTES: Toews has two goals and eight assists in his last five games. … New Jersey RW David Clarkson sat out the game with a sore right leg. He had missed 13 games with a broken fibula before returning last Monday against Atlanta. He then left in the second period Wednesday. … Devils D Bryce Salvador missed his second game with a lower-body injury. … The Blackhawks signed D Shawn Lalonde, their second pick in the 2008 draft (68th overall) to a three-year contract on Thursday.