CHICAGO – Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire was perfect again on Thursday night. The Blue Jackets players skating in front of him were just as good.
Leclaire made 30 saves for his league-leading eighth shutout and Jared Boll scored in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 1-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night. Leclaire had to make a handful of tough saves, although the tight-checking Blue Jackets limited Chicago’s offensive space and chances.
“We played them strong 5-on-5, especially against their top line” of Patrick Kane, Robert Lang and Martin Havlat, Leclaire said. “We didn’t give them a lot of space all night.
“That’s why we’re in the playoff race right now,” he added. “The doughnut is a bonus.”
Boll scored his fifth goal of the season on a deflection in the second period, his first score in 15 games.
“We don’t give up very much,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock added. “Everyone calls it defensive hockey, but what we did was check well. Other teams have to pay for what they get.”
Nikolai Khabibulin made his first start in six games. Khabibulin made 26 saves, but his personal losing streak reached eight games (0-7-1).
“Hopefully I’ll be able to build on this game, use this game as a positive,” Khabibulin said. “I was really hoping to play well tonight and I thought I did. I’m not very happy we didn’t get the win.”
Backup Patrick Lalime started the Blackhawks’ previous five contests and won four straight before Chicago lost 3-2 at San Jose on Tuesday. Khabibulin hasn’t won since Dec. 26.
Among Khabibulin’s nine saves in the scoreless first period was a point-blank stick stop on David Vyborny during a Columbus power play midway through the period.
Boll’s deflection at 7:20 of the second turned out to be the game’s only goal. Standing in the slot, he redirected Ole-Kristian Tollefsen’s shot from the left wing past Khabibulin on the stick side.
“To gain an inch in this league you’ve got to want it and want to work,” Chicago coach Denis Savard said. “You might get a cut. You might get bruised. So what?
“Last time I checked, you’re getting pretty good money to do it. And they don’t want to do it. It’s as simple as that.”
Leclaire wasn’t heavily tested in the second, but made saves on one-timers by Patrick Sharp from the slot early in the period and by Brent Seabrook from the left circle late in the frame.
During a delayed penalty call, Leclaire made a point-blank save on Adam Burish as 6:04 of the third. He then robbed Robert Lang with a right pad save from the edge of the crease with 8:03 left.
“We expect this every night from him,” Hitchcock said. “He gave us a chance to win and the guys up front played well for him.
Notes: The Blackhawks played without six regulars, all forwards – Jonathan Toews (knee), Jason Williams (sports hernia), Kevyn Adams (knee), Dave Bolland (broken finger), Martin Lapointe (bruised kidney) and Kris Versteeg (shoulder). … The Blackhawks play their next seven games on the road and don’t return to the United Center until Feb. 17. … Chicago LW Ben Eager returned after missing 13 games with a concussion. … Columbus C Sergei Fedorov missed his fourth game with a concussion. Blue Jackets D Dan Fritsche sat out his first game with a lower back sprain.