CHICAGO – The longest road winning streak in the Blue Jackets’ history has Columbus inching back into a congested Western Conference playoff race.
Antoine Vermette, Derek MacKenzie and Anton Stralman scored in a span of 5:54 in the second period and the Blue Jackets held on for a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night.
Matt Calvert added a goal and an assist for Columbus, which improved to 6-1-1 in its last eight, including a franchise-record six straight road victories. The Blue Jackets pulled into a tie with Chicago for 11th in the standing with 64 points, four points back of the final playoff spot.
“I just felt we were giving them a little too much respect,” said Columbus coach Scott Arniel, whose team fell behind 2-1 in the first period. “We’ve had success in the last three or four weeks because we haven’t gotten intimidated by any team we’re playing.
“I thought tonight we had a little bit of that. We were giving them too much room to work instead of being up on our toes.”
Patrick Sharp had two goals and assisted on a score by Patrick Kane as the Blackhawks’ top line—along with Jonathan Toews—accounted for all of Chicago’s offence. Kane and Toews both had two assists.
“The second period we came back and played good hockey and turned the game around,” said Stralman, whose power-play goal late in the second period – and his first score in more than a year – stood up as the game-winner.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville missed his second straight game after being hospitalized on Wednesday morning with gastrointestinal bleeding caused by an ulcer. In a statement, team physician Dr. Michael Terry said the condition was brought on by aspirin, but club officials have not discussed a possible return date.
Assistant coach Mike Haviland was in charge behind bench again on Friday for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who have been plagued by inconsistency and lapses, and are trying to move back into playoff position in the West.
“We’ve got to bear down,” Haviland said. “I thought they started outworking us. It’s unacceptable this time of year.”
Sharp said: “It’s a huge loss. It’s disappointing. It’s clear the letdown in the second period had us skating uphill at the end.”
Columbus’s Steve Mason made 37 saves, while Chicago’s Corey Crawford had 32.
Calvert opened the scoring 5:32 in with a highlight reel goal. After blocking Duncan Keith’s shot from the right point, Calvert raced down the ice with the puck while fighting off Chicago defenceman Nick Leddy. Calvert capped the effort by sliding in a backhand shot after he had left his feet to make a move. Sharp then scored on consecutive shifts to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead as the Blackhawks began to dominate.
Sharp tied it 1-1 at 7:32 on a breakaway. He was sent in alone on crisp pass from Kane after Kane picked off Grant Clitsome’s pass in the neutral zone. Sharp then put Chicago ahead at 10:04 with his 30th goal, rifled in from the slot after he took a behind-the-net feed from Toews.
Vermette, MacKenzie and Stralman then scored in the nearly 6-minute stretch to put Columbus ahead 4-2.
Vermette’s power-play goal on a rebound midway through the second tied it. MacKenzie made it 3-2 with 7:32 left in the second when he poked in a loose puck that trickled through Crawford’s pads following a save on Calvert.
Stralman made it 4-2 just over three minutes later on a screened shot during a power-play for his first goal in more than a year. Kane replied 21 seconds later and cut it to 4-3 after taking a pass from Toews to complete a 2-on-1 break.
Stralman took a delay of game penalty with 2:28 left when he shot the puck over the glass, but the Blackhawks were unable to tie it despite a late flurry.
NOTES: Quenneville has been in regular contact with his coaching staff. “I spoke to him this morning,” Haviland said following Friday’s game-day skate. “You know he’s actually going a little stir-crazy there. He was in great spirits.” … Columbus C Derick Brassard missed his first game after suffering an injured left hand Wednesday in a 4-3 shootout loss to Los Angeles. He was placed on IR and is expected to miss two to three weeks. … Blue JacketsD Rostilav Klesla missed his 10th game with a knee injury. … Chicago C Ryan Johnson and RW Fernando Pisani both sat out with concussions.