CALGARY – With a nearly unstoppable power play, the Blackhawks easily cruised to their fifth straight victory Thursday night.
Kris Versteeg scored a pair of goals as Chicago went 4-for-5 with the extra man in a 7-1 rout of the Calgary Flames.
In the battle between two hot teams that entered play with identical records, the game was decided in the second when Chicago scored five unanswered goals after Olli Jokinen’s knotted the game 1-1 just 14 seconds into the period.
“Great game across the board, I’m very happy with all aspects and areas of our game,” said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. “Everyone contributed, a very solid team win.”
Chicago restored its lead at 2:01 when Versteeg deflected Brent Seabrook’s slapshot past Miikka Kiprusoff.
After goals from Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd put the visitors up 4-1, the Blackhawks added two more power-play goals in the final 90 seconds of the period.
Patrick Kane celebrated his 21st birthday by neatly one-timing Patrick Sharp’s pass behind Kiprusoff 21 seconds into a two-man advantage.
Thirty-six seconds later, Kane was the playmaker, zipping a hard cross-ice pass to Versteeg at the side of the net for another one-timer. Again, Kiprusoff had no chance on the tic-tac-toe passing play.
“The (power play has) been struggling a little bit this year but it’s nice to get it back on track tonight,” said Kane. “Obviously we have a lot of skill on both units so it’s good to get that going and hopefully we can keep it going.”
It was an off night for the Flames penalty kill, which had yielded just one power-play goal in its previous seven games.
“We had a lapse in the second and they capitalized on that,” said Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf.
“That’s not acceptable. As a group, we have to be better, we have to play a full 60 minute game.”
Troy Brouwer and Ben Eager also scored for Chicago (13-5-2), while Duncan Keith chipped in with three assists.
Chicago has dominated play between the two teams of late. After winning all four regular-season meetings last year, the Blackhawks beat the Flames four games to two in the opening round of last year’s playoffs.
In their only meeting earlier this season, Calgary (12-6-2) jumped out to a 5-0 first-period lead, before losing 6-5 in overtime.
“There wasn’t a guy in here, every single one of us, that was nearly good enough especially in an important time of the game in the second period where we just had a meltdown,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
“We’ve been doing that against this team for a while and we haven’t been good enough lately. That was embarrassing.”
Chicago’s power-play goals in the second were all a result of undisciplined Flames penalties.
On the go-ahead goal, Nigel Dawes was in the penalty box for roughing after he jumped Blackhawks defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson in response to the Swede’s heavy open-ice hit on Rene Bourque.
“You like the fact that you have teammates that stick up for each other, but there was no penalty on the play because it’s a clean hit,” said Sutter. “You put your team down against a team that’s got a good power play and they capitalized on it and the next thing you know it’s 2-1 and suddenly it’s 3-1.”
Chicago’s decisive two-man advantage came as a result of a too many men on the ice penalty followed by a roughing call on Dion Phaneuf.
The Pengrowth Saddledome crowd of 19,289 voiced its displeasure with the homeside, booing them off the ice at the end of the second period.
Sutter gave Kiprusoff the third period off with Curtis McElhinney playing the final 20 minutes.
Kiprusoff finished up with 18 saves on 24 shots and sees his record fall to 11-5-2.
Chicago’s Cristobal Huet had 27 saves to improve to 10-4-1.
The Blackhawks kicked off a six-game road trip that sees them play three times in Western Canada before wrapping up the 11-day journey with three games in California.
Calgary dropped both games on a short homestand that came on the heels of a successful road trip in where they picked up five of six points. Calgary plays next in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Notes: Bourque left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury. He will be re-evaluated on Friday. … Calgary is 10-for-18 on the penalty kill during the past four games. … Versteeg (upper body) was back in the lineup after missing one game. … The six-game road trip is not Chicago’s longest of the season. They hit the road for eight straight in January. … It was the 496th career coaching win for Joel Quenneville moving him into a tie with Glen Sather for 14th on the NHL’s all-time list. … Calgary outshot Chicago 28-26, just the third time the Blackhawks had been outshot this season. The Blackhawks entered the night the league leader with an average shot differential of 10.1 shots per game. That’s nearly five shots better than second place Detroit (5.4).