Hot Blue Jackets chill Blackhawks 4-3 at United Center
By ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporteremail@example.com February 18, 2011 11:22PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
It was another wild game in the Western Conference — a defensive gem it was not — and in the end, the Columbus Blue Jackets showed again how tough the fight will be for the Blackhawks to make the playoffs.
The Hawks blew a first-period lead and an outstanding night from their first line as the Blue Jackets rallied for a 4-3 victory Friday before the 14th disappointed United Center crowd this season.
Just how tight has the West become?
The Blue Jackets, considered out of playoff contention not too long ago, have the same number of points as the Hawks (64) and the same record, 29-23-6.
‘‘It’s not a good position to be in,’’ winger Patrick Kane said. ‘‘You’ve got 24 games left — I know I keep saying this, but it’s tough to drop two points because every team in the West just seems to be in it. We’ve got to get hot.’’
You could describe the Blue Jackets as hot. They’re now 6-1-1 in the last eight games. And they are like other teams in the West — the Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks — who are on rolls.
Steve Mason (37 saves) overcame a shaky start to turn away the Hawks in the third period as they desperately searched for the equalizer while down 4-3.
The Hawks even had a power play in the final minutes but weren’t able to tie it.
The Hawks’ top line of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was a force all game, accounting for all the Hawks’ production. Sharp scored twice and had an assist; Kane had a goal and two assists and Toews finished with two assists.
‘‘It’s a huge loss,’’ said Sharp, who has seven goals against the Blue Jackets this season. ‘‘It’s disappointing.’’
The second period was one to forget for goalie Corey Crawford (32 saves) after the Hawks entered with a 2-1 lead.
Antoine Vermette and Anton Stralman both scored on the power play as Columbus rallied to take the lead in the second period after key faceoff wins.
Derek MacKenzie also scored in the second period, tipping in a free puck that squeaked through Crawford’s pads.
Kane ended the Blue Jackets’ momentum with a goal 31 seconds after Stralman’s in the second, but the damage was done.
Matt Calvert gave Columbus a 1-0 lead in the first period with a nice individual play after blocking a shot by Duncan Keith, but the Hawks responded with two goals by Sharp.
‘‘It’s clear the letdown in the second period had us skating uphill the rest of the game,’’ Sharp said. “We know the importance of these games. We know we’ve got to play our best. . . . But in the end, it was just a little too short.’’