Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) celebrates his goal with Nick Leddy (8), Jonathan Toews (19) and Kris Versteeg (23) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Updated: December 23, 2013 9:34PM
With three days off in front of them, and two big games against division opponents looming immediately after the break, the Blackhawks made it clear they wanted to go into Christmas with a good taste in their mouth.
“We want to leave it all out there,” Patrick Sharp said.
“We want to leave it all out there,” Bryan Bickell said.
“We want to leave everything out there,” Andrew Shaw said, straying boldly from the talking points.
Well, they didn’t leave a win out there, which is all that really matters. The Hawks dominated the puck all game long in a 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Monday night. The Hawks out-shot the Devils 37-12 in another lopsided affair against the Eastern Conference (they’re 10-1-2 against the East this season). Sharp scored twice off tremendous Marian Hossa feeds, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook each had two assists, and Patrick Kane continued his red-hot play for the Hawks.
Antti Raanta made 10 saves in his seventh straight start, improving to 8-1-2 on the season.
Both teams looked like they were getting a head-start on their breaks early on. Halfway through the first period, the Hawks had just two shots on goal; the Devils had just one. But Sharp took a slick no-look drop pass from Hossa and wristed a shot that ticked off Devils defenseman Mark Fayne and past Cory Schneider for a 1-0 Hawks lead at 12:59 of the first period.
The Devils, despite putting just two shots on Raanta in the first period, tied it at 1-1 early in the second when Stephen Gionta deflected a Jon Merrill shot in for his second goal of the season.
But a little more than two minutes later, Kane muscled his way to a Nick Leddy rebound and one-handed the puck past Schneider for a 2-1 lead. It was Kane’s 22nd goal of the season. He now has a point in 12 straight games — his second such streak of the season, both separated by just one pointless game. Since Nov. 3, there’s only been one game in which Kane hasn’t scored at least a point — a 2-1 shootout loss in Dallas on Nov. 29. Kane also hit two posts later in the game.
Bickell then made it 3-1 Hawks with a wrist shot from the right circle through an Andrew Shaw screen. For Bickell, who was playing just his third game since returning from a knee injury, it was his first goal since Nov. 10.
New Jersey briefly made a game of it when Michael Ryder scored 59 seconds into the third period, but Hossa sprung Sharp on a breakaway, and Sharp finished it for his 18th goal of the season.
Nick Leddy added a power play goal, banking in a slap shot off the post from the top of the left circle at 12:59.
The win sends the Hawks into the unofficial halfway point of the season in first place in the Central Division, and just one point behind the Anaheim Ducks (who are on a nine-game win streak) in the Western Conference. They’ll enjoy the break, then brace for the Avalanche, Blues and Kings — three more of the top teams in the West — in a four-day span.
That’s why Hawks coach Joel Quenneville wanted their “focus in the right place” on Monday night — so that it’ll still be there after the break, when they’ll need it most.
“We’ll take those days away, and enjoy getting away and getting some rest, and get excited when we get back,” Quenneville said.