Have you ever watched the movie Misery? Don't fret if you haven't, because you saw the hockey equivalent play itself out at the MTS Centre tonight. Yes, it seems that no matter how badly the Winnipeg Jets (ably played by the wonderful Kathy Bates) try, they just can't seem to rewrite the script of the brazen Chicago Blackhawks (James Caan).
Sure, the Jets battled with all their might to thwart the champs through the first forty minutes, but in the end, those efforts were futile. Chicago was simply the wiser team. The more skilled team. And when the chips were all-in with the score tied at three apiece, it was Chicago that turned on the afterburners and left a crumpled Jets' team in their wake.
The Blackhawks drew first blood on a power play late in the opening frame. Patrick Kane was given an eternity to walk his way to the top of the slot and nonchalantly wire the puck through a maze of unsuspecting Jets' penalty killers, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead through one.
It wasn't long before the Blackhawks lead was extended further as Brandon Saad unleashed a laser-beam past an unsuspecting Ondrej Pavelec merely three minutes into the second period as both teams skated at four-on-four. Now at 2-0, it appeared as though the route was on.
Unperturbed, it took the Jets only twenty-nine seconds after Saad's marker to tie the game. Buzz-bombs by Andrew Ladd and Keaton Ellerby quickly knotted things at 2-2 and re-ignited a quiet Jets' crowd leading to a momentum shift in Winnipeg's favour.
Enter Jonathan Toews.
Winnipeg's prodigal son had returned for the second time in his career and yet again was able to notch a goal on his native ice. Toews corralled a loose puck on the sideboards and after out-muscling the Winnipeg defenceman, banked the puck off the post and past Pavelec giving the Blackhawks yet another lead. Toews went on to finish the night with a four point performance.
Not to be outdone, Dustin Byfuglien hunted down a bouncing puck, slipping it past Corey Crawford to square the game at 3-3. With the power play marker, Byfuglien now has six goals in his last six games. Heading into the third, it appeared as though Winnipeg had jostled momentum away from Chicago yet again.
Goals by Marian Hossa and Ben Smith within the opening five minutes of the final stanza paved the way for a 5-3 Blackhawks lead, one which they would not relent. A Patrick Sharp empty-net goal put the exclamation mark on yet another impressive performance by the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Chicago now possesses a 15-4-4 record, keeping pace with a still surging St. Louis Blues squadron in the Central Division. For Winnipeg, it's back to the drawing board after yet another divisional loss. They will next host the Minnesota Wild in a matinee game on Saturday.
- Coming into action, Kris Versteeg had 19 points (9G, 10A) in 16 career games versus Atlanta/Winnipeg. Make that 20 points in 17 games as he managed yet another assist tonight.
- On the flip side, Devin Setoguchi had 15 points (7G, 8A) in 20 career games versus Chicago. He couldn't muster anything offensively this evening, and was promptly benched in the third period by Claude Noel.
- It looks as though Ondrej Pavelec will have to wait a little longer for career win number 100. With the loss, he still hovers at 99.
- Straight up, the Blackhawks team is a collection of genies. No, wait; genies don't evoke enough magical prowess... wizards! Yeah, The Blackhawks are freaking wizards. Or, maybe warlocks… yeah, warlocks.
- Duncan Keith is an exemplary hockey player. Those were some of the quietest 22 minutes of TOI I've ever seen and he still finished with an assist and +4 rating.
- Chicago is now 13-0-3 on the campaign when scoring first. Those are some pretty impressive numbers.
- I don't think hockey players get much more dreamy than Keaton Ellerby. Don't look that man in the eye because he'll turn you to stone with those piercing blues.
- Congratulations to Bryan Little who with an assist on Ladd's goal surpassed Marian Hossa as the third all-time scorer in Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise history.
- With the loss, Winnipeg is now 3-9-1 against Central Division opponents. You can cry and whine as much as you want that certain Western teams are getting fat on an early Eastern schedule, but any team that porous against their own division deserves the fate they're handed. Those results are inexcusably bad.
- Hey look, Blake Wheeler hasn't scored a goal in his last ten games. Good thing he's not getting paid 5.6MM a year or anything.