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Toews has big homecoming in 6-3 Blackhawks’ win

Updated: November 21, 2013 11:50PM

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — After all the hype and pomp that surrounded his last — and first — visit to Winnipeg to face his hometown Jets, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was kicking himself for failing to score, especially after losing the handle on the puck during a breakaway.

On Thursday night, there was far less fuss. And far more points.

Toews had one of his best games of an already superlative season, posting a goal and three assists — including the set-up for Marian Hossa’s game-winning goal — as the Hawks pulled away in the third period for a 6-3 victory over the Jets, their third convincing win over their new division rivals in as many tries.

“Any night, you’ll take that,” said Toews, who now has 11 goals and 12 assists in 23 games. “It’s especially special to have that happen here in Winnipeg.”

With Hossa back by his side after he missed three games with a lower-body injury, the top line was once again dominant — particularly Toews, who even won all nine of his first-period faceoffs, all of them against Jets center Bryan Little. His second-period goal was one for the highlight reel, as he made a strong move to the net for a desperately needed goal after the Jets scored twice in 29 seconds to turn a potential rout into a battle.

And on Hossa’s goal early in the third — which gave the Hawks a 4-3 lead — Toews made a nifty cross-ice pass that Hossa chipped into the net.

“He was special tonight,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He was great in the faceoffs in the first period, he scored an unbelievable goal in the second and he made an unbelievable pass in the third.”

Despite the wobbly second period — in which ex-Hawks Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien each had a goal and an assist to turn a 2-0 Hawks lead into a 3-3 tie — it was another strong bounce-back game for the Hawks. On Saturday, they were run out of Nashville by the Predators in a 7-2 loss, but responded with a 5-1 victory over the Sharks the next night. And after a 5-1 loss at Colorado on Tuesday, the Hawks again put together a solid effort — particularly early, when they built a 2-0 lead on goals by Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, and late, when they made Hossa’s goal stand up and added a tally by Ben Smith and an empty-netter by Patrick Sharp.

In fact, the way Quenneville saw it, the Hawks bounced back twice in this one.

“I really liked the way we played tonight,” he said. “I thought we answered the bell at the start of the game, and answered the bell when they had their run there in the second.”

Corey Crawford, who was trying to bounce back from being pulled in the first period Tuesday at Colorado, made 22 saves in the victory, surviving the difficult second period which included his bobbling of Byfuglien’s rebound goal on a 5-on-3 power play. Crawford, who has appeared in 13 straight games thanks to Nikolai Khabibulin’s struggles and injury, has now allowed 20 goals in his last six appearances.

And while Quenneville said before the game, that the goaltending had to be better, the Hawks expressed the utmost confidence in their overworked netminder.

“That’s what he gets paid to do,” defenseman Duncan Keith joked about Crawford playing in 13 straight. “He’s been great for us all year, and obviously all year last year. We’re a confident team when he’s in net.”

It doesn’t hurt when Toews has Hossa back on his wing, and a hometown crowd to show off for, either.

“Like I always say, sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t,” Toews said. “And tonight as a line we had [Hossa] back, we had a little momentum, a couple bounces here and there — and it’s nice to see some results.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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