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Blackhawks 4, Blue Jackets 1: Viktor Stalberg, Corey Crawford spark Hawks

Columbus Blue Jackets center Jeff Carter second left tries score Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford left as defenseman Nick Leddy

Columbus Blue Jackets center Jeff Carter, second left, tries to score on Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, left, as defenseman Nick Leddy, right, and center Brandon Pirri defend during the second period of a hockey game, Monday, Dec. 26, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)

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Updated: January 28, 2012 8:13AM



Viktor Stalberg’s scorching stretch was crucial. And Corey Crawford’s play in goal was decisive.

For the Blackhawks, getting the kind of play they did from Stalberg and Crawford on Monday against the
Columbus Blue Jackets was just another reason to think they can reach another level as their season progresses.

The Hawks weren’t at their best against the lowly Blue Jackets, but Stalberg scored twice and Crawford stopped 37 of 38 shots in a 4-1 victory at the United Center.

Marian Hossa had a
power-play goal and an
assist, Dave Bolland added two assists and Patrick Sharp scored his 19th goal as the Hawks continued their torrid December run with their ninth victory this month. They also became the first team in the league to reach 50 points.

‘‘I’m feeling good about my game,’’ Stalberg said. ‘‘And I think as a group we’ve been playing pretty well, especially in December. It seems like we’re finding ways to win most games.’’

Crawford needed a strong game because the Blue Jackets often had the Hawks on their heels. The Hawks were outshot 13-5 in the first
period and mustered their first shot in the third only after the Blue Jackets had 10.

It was another good sign for Crawford, who was coming off a solid victory against the Montreal Canadiens before the Christmas break and was making consecutive starts for the first time in weeks.

‘‘I’m just trying to be
focused and better prepared before games,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘I felt pretty good today, even though you don’t want to give up too many shots. I thought we were playing well. We kept them to the outside and secured rebounds.’’

Still, Crawford had to make several tough saves, including one on a chance for R.J. Umberger off a bouncing puck in the first period and another on a redirected attempt by Jeff Carter in the third.

‘‘[Crawford] looked good tonight,’’ coach Joel Quenne-
ville said. ‘‘He kept us in the game, especially in that first period, and was big all night long. .  .  . The big saves he made, it looked like he was anticipating, and technically he was strong.’’

The Hawks broke out in the second period after a scoreless first. Sharp made it 1-0 by redirecting in a nice pass from Hossa. Stalberg then struck twice, scoring on his own rebound and on a nice setup from Bolland.

Former Hawks defenseman James Wisniewski scored in the third period to pull the Blue Jackets to 3-1, but Hossa’s goal late in the period sealed the victory.

‘‘We created a lot of chances ourselves, [and] I think that if you look at the game, we out-chanced them,’’ Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. ‘‘But they certainly capitalized on theirs; we didn’t.’’

Stalberg’s surge definitely helped. He has seven points in the Hawks’ last four games.

‘‘He’s improving, moreso his patience with the puck and his awareness,’’ Quenne-
ville said. ‘‘He’s getting better in puck protection, which is something he needs to
improve on.

‘‘There seems to be growth in his game, be it stick positioning, [being] quick to pucks [and] protecting the puck better. He’s got a great shot and great speed, and he scored some big goals tonight.’’



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