CHICAGO – Fast-skating Chicago forward Viktor Stalberg is finding his stride. On Saturday night, he also found his scoring touch in a flash.
Stalberg scored his first two goals of the season just 1:58 apart early in the third period to snap a tie, and the Blackhawks beat the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2.
Known for his speed, Stalberg missed the first three games of the season with a left knee injury. But on Saturday he was flying, as Blackhawks took charge late in the game to pull out a win against the injury-plagued Blue Jackets (1-9-1), who have the NHL’s worst record and are off to the poorest start in franchise history.
“We played all right for the first 40 (minutes) and gave up some goals we don’t want to give up,” Stalberg said. “We found ways to come back. The biggest thing is taking two points and not losing two games in a row.”
Chicago (6-2-2) rebounded from a 3-0 loss at Carolina on Friday night.
“I think we’ve got some more swagger this year,” Stalberg added. “We feel like we’re going to go out and get that goal instead of sitting back maybe like we did last year when we found ways to give up those late goals.”
Stalberg put Chicago ahead 3-2 at 4:26 of the third during a 4-on-4. He raced down the right wing, cut to the net and fired a shot between the legs of Columbus defenceman James Wisniewski and goalie Allen York’s pads.
The Swedish forward struck again at 6:24 to make it 4-2. Left wide open at the right edge of the crease, he converted Andrew Brunette’s centring pass.
Stalberg narrowly missed a hat trick later in the period when he fired a close-in chance wide.
“I think (Stalberg’s) speed is really effective; he has a great shot,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He has to be comfortable in those situations with the puck.
“I think he’s definitely got some high-end speed and skill in that scoring type of an area,” he added. “As he becomes more rounded in his game, we could use him in more situations.”
Chicago rookie Marcus Kruger scored his first NHL goal, and Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik also connected for the Blackhawks.
Vinny Prospal and Derek MacKenzie scored for Blue Jackets, who lost again after battling back to tie a game.
“It’s close to seven games we’ve been tied 2-2 at some part of the game,” Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. “They were giving up just as many chances as we were, but at the end of the day we made mistakes—two mistakes in the third period—and it cost us the hockey game.”
Chicago’s Ray Emery made 27 saves in his second start this season as the Blue Jackets faced a backup goalie for the third straight game.
York blocked 33 shots in his first NHL start. Previously, he had logged just 2:33 of ice time, in relief of Blue Jackets No. 1 goalie Steve Mason last Tuesday, and hadn’t faced a shot.
Columbus played without five regular skaters, plus goalies Mark Dekanich and Curtis Sanford. Dekanich had been expected to back up Mason this season and Sanford is considered the No. 3 goalie in the Blue Jackets organization.
Three apparent goals by Chicago and one by Columbus were disallowed.
Kruger opened the scoring from the crease just 2:51 in, popping in a rebound of Jamal Mayers’ long shot. Prospal tied it at 1 just over 3 minutes later when he fired in a perfect cross-ice feed from Fedor Tyutin before Emery could move across the crease.
Bolland finished a short-handed breakaway with 1:39 left in the first to give Chicago a 2-1 lead. Despite being pulled down from behind by Columbus defenceman Grant Clitsome, Bolland managed to slide the puck past York.
MacKenzie scored the only goal of the second, with 5:58 left, to tie it at 2. He lofted in a shot from the right circle after Emery couldn’t control a rebound of Rick Nash’s attempt from the left side.
Stalberg put Chicago ahead 3-2, less than a minute after an apparent power-play goal by the Blackhawks Patrick Sharp had been waved off because of a penalty on Chicago’s Bryan Bickell. Stalberg extended it to 4-2 on his next shift.
Frolik scored into an empty net with 3 seconds left.
The Blue Jackets’ Derick Brassard kicked the puck in during a power play with 4:19 left in the third.
NOTES: Chicago LW Dan Carcillo sat out the first game of a two-game suspension for an illegal check on Hurricanes D Joni Pitkanen on Friday night in Carolina. Chicago D Sean O’Donnell was a healthy scratch for the first time this season In the Blackhawks lineup were D Sami Lepisto, a scratch for eight straight games, and LW John Scott, who had appeared in only two previous contests. Out with injuries for Columbus were C Jeff Carter (broken right foot), RW Jared Boll (broken right thumb), LW Kristian Huselius (torn pectoral muscle), D Radek Martinek (concussion), D Marc Methot (broken right thumb), and Dekanich (high ankle sprain) and Sanford (groin). Columbus’ previous worst start through 11 games was in 2000-01, its inaugural season, when it was 2-8-0-1 (5 points).