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Third-period surge powers Blackhawks over Blue Jackets

Viktor Stalberg (top) scores his second goal off pass from Andrew Brunette (15). | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Viktor Stalberg (top) scores his second goal off a pass from Andrew Brunette (15). | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 23, 2012 3:40AM

After a lackluster first 40 minutes against an underwhelming Columbus Blue Jackets team, the Blackhawks leaned on a confidence they’ve developed late in games this season.

Viktor Stalberg scored his first two goals of the season in less than two minutes in the third period as the Hawks reasserted themselves in a 5-2 victory Saturday at the United Center.

“We’ve got a little more swagger this year,” Stalberg said. “We’re feeling like we’re going to go out there and get that goal instead of sitting back maybe like we did last year [when] we found ways to give up those late goals instead. This year it seems like we’re finding ways to battle back and get those go-ahead goals.”

The strong third-period performance pushed the Hawks to their fourth victory in six games at the United Center. The team is 4-0-2 at home to start the season, capturing 10 of a possible 12 points.

“The urgency came out in that second intermission and we told ourselves, ‘Hey, we’re not being predictable enough for each other,’  ” Toews said. “We needed to do what’s expected from each and every teammate and played better in the third.”

Stalberg was playing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Andrew Brunette as coach Joel Quenneville shuffled his lineup to compensate with the absence of suspended forward Daniel Carcillo.

“We were joking as a line, ‘We can score goals,’ ” Toews said. “It will go in if we keep working and keep dominating the way we have, getting so many scoring chances. But we waited for the right moment and Stalberg got two big ones in the third.”

Marcus Kruger continued to show he’s shaken off the shaky training camp he had and  punched home a rebound off a shot from Jamal Mayers 2:51 into the game to score the first of his NHL career after an interplay of passes between the two fourth-liners created the space for Mayers’ blast.

“I’m a little bit more loose now than during training camp and holding on to the puck a bit more,” Kruger said. “I had too much pressure on myself [during training camp]. I just need to go out there and play my game, that’s how you play good hockey.”

“It’s good for them, a little Swedish Connection tonight,” Toews said. “Kruger has been working hard and he’s been around the net many times. There’s nothing like getting that first one like that and getting it off your chest and you can just go out there and play.

“After that you don’t keep count, they just keep coming.”

Dave Bolland scored his second short-handed and fifth goal of the season while being dragged down from behind after he was sent in on a breakaway by Michael Frolik, who had an empty-net goal.

Nick Leddy has assists on both of Stalberg’s goals — including the primary assist on the game-winning goal after he made a smart spin with the puck before chipping it along the boards for Stalberg to skate on to and eventually score.

Ray Emery allowed goals to Vinny Prospal and Derek Mackenzie, but stopped 27 of 29 shots to get his second win in as many starts.

“[Emery] was real good,” Quenneville said. “He killed penalties very well for us. He looked big, square and solid. He starts off with two big wins for us and for him, and it’s a good situation for us.”

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