COLUMBUS, Ohio – Patrick Kane is OK and so are the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Kane had a goal in regulation and bounced back from a jarring knee-on-knee hit to score again in the shootout, and Troy Brouwer’s goal in the fourth round of the tiebreaker gave the Blackhawks a 5-4 victory over Columbus on Sunday.
It was a thrill-a-minute game that sent the NHL into its Olympic break with a flourish.
“It just felt sore for a bit,” said Kane, who then headed off to join the rest of the U.S. team at the Olympics in Vancouver. “I think it’s one of those things that once it gets hit, you’ve just got to warm it up a bit. It didn’t really affect me the rest of the game.”
While Kane flew off to join the American squad, the game was undoubtedly fodder for discussion on the flight shared by Columbus’ Rick Nash and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. The Team Canada members flew out of Columbus after the game to Vancouver.
“I think the Canadians will be happy with nothing but a gold medal,” said Nash, who had a goal for the Blue Jackets, who dropped to 3-1-1 under interim coach Claude Noel.
Both the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets came back from – and blew – a two-goal deficit in regulation.
Jake Dowell and Patrick Sharp each had a goal an assist, and Bryan Bickell also had a goal for the Blackhawks, who won their fourth in a row. Toews added two assists.
Kristian Huselius had a goal and an assist and scored in the shootout for Columbus, which dropped its second straight. Raffi Torres and Fedor Tyutin added goals.
Kane’s goal in the second round of the shootout was matched by Huselius in the third round. After Antoine Vermette failed to score for the Blue Jackets, Brouwer’s forehand beat Mathieu Garon on the stick side for the clincher.
“I got a move where I come down on (teammate Antti Niemi) in practice and I shoot low glove, so I figured … it might work as well,” Brouwer said.
Down 4-3 heading into a wild, chippy, end-to-end third period, the Blue Jackets pulled even on the second of a double-minor penalty assessed to Brouwer after the hit on Kane. It appeared Columbus defenceman Anton Stralman tried to hip check Kane as he came over the blue-line into the offensive zone, but instead their right knees slammed together.
“I felt it was dirty,” Brouwer said. “It’s always tough to see a teammate go down. So I had to step in.”
Tyutin’s hard, rising slap shot from the left point on the ensuing power plays went off the leg of Chicago defenceman Kim Johnsson for the tying score at 7:58.
The teams traded scoring opportunities and punches the rest of third period. Sharp and Torres fought late in regulation, then Dustin Byfuglien had a dust-up with a couple of Blue Jackets, including Garon after the Blackhawk jabbed at a puck in Garon’s glove.
Chicago dominated the first period yet still trailed 2-0, then came back with four goals in a row. Nash and Tyutin then tied it up, followed by plenty of odd-man rushes, numerous scoring chances, long rebounds and hard checks.
“They’re valuable points,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “You’re going into the break, coming up with four tough games in a row – and certainly eight big points for us. I think we can capture some momentum when we return.”
The Blackhawks have 87 points and a gaping lead in the Central Division, and trail San Jose by only two points in the race for the best record in the West.
“We ended the stretch pretty good,” Toews said
Meanwhile, Columbus is all but eliminated from the playoff picture, despite improved play under Noel, who took over when Ken Hitchcock was fired on Feb. 3.
While six Blue Jackets and six Blackhawks will face the pressure and demands of the Olympics, the rest of the Columbus players have two weeks to mull went wrong to this point.
“I’m telling them to let their minds go free and enjoy their time away and come back with vim and vigour and joy,” Noel said.
NOTES: Niemi had 24 saves, Garon 33. … Columbus has scored the first goal in its last seven games. … The Blackhawks won the season series outright for the first time since 2002-03.