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Blackhawks beat Blue Jackets, off to best start since 1972

The SportsXchange

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Not since the days of Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito, more than 40 years ago, have the Chicago Blackhawks started a season like this.

The Blackhawks survived a pesky effort by the Columbus Blue Jackets last night to claim a 3-2 victory before an announced crowd of 18,381 in Nationwide Arena, improving to 5-0 for the first time since 1971-72.

"Finding ways to win is important," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You're not going to be great or be your best every night.

"You have to commend Columbus. They played a very workman-like game. They were the harder working team. But finding a way is important."

Dave Bolland, Brian Bickell and Jonathan Toews scored for the Blackhawks, while goaltender Corey Crawford had 24 saves. Chicago nearly let a late 3-1 lead slip away, however.

The Blue Jackets pulled goaltender Steve Mason for an extra skater with 2:30 remaining and pulled to 3-2 with 2:19 to play when Artem Anisimov buried a Brandon Dubinsky rebound in front of Crawford.

The Jackets pulled Mason again with 1:10 remaining, but couldn't score the equalizer.

"We got caught flat-footed a few times here and there," Toews said. "It doesn't matter who we're playing, we have to be better prepared than that.

"We knew they were going to come hard in the first period and we didn't come out well in the first 10 minutes. ... (but) we found a way to win."

Mark Letestu also scored for the Blue Jackets, who have lost four straight after a season-opening win over Nashville.

The Blackhawks came back from an early 1-0 deficit when Bolland finished a 2-on-1 rush with Patrick Kane at 17:54 of the first period.

Chicago's lead grew to 2-1 at 8:50 when Bickell redirected a slapshot by defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson at 8:50.

The Blue Jackets felt like they'd tied the score at 2-2 midway through the second period. But NHL official Dan O'Rourke ruled that Jackets winger Nick Foligno had interfered with Crawford just before a slap shot by Derick Brassard beat the Blackhawks goaltender.

"The right call was made," Quenneville said. "(Foligno's) skate picked him from coming across the crease. He couldn't get over."

The Blue Jackets disagreed.

"(O'Rourke) told me I leaned on (Crawford) and didn't give him time to reset for the shot," Foligno said. "It should have been 2-2."

Chicago went ahead 3-1 early in the third when Toews was left all alone in front of Mason as the Blue Jackets left the zone and turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Kane fed Toews, who had plenty of time to maneuver his way around Mason, scoring past his right pad.

The Blue Jackets, who have scored only five even-strength goals in five games, could only make it close down the stretch.

"Versus a very good team tonight, for 60 minutes, we battled and competed right against them," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "I was pleased with the way we battled and stuck with it."

NOTES: This would have been NHL All-Star weekend in Columbus if this year's game hadn't been canceled by the 119-day NHL lockout. Now, it's unclear when the game will be hosted in Nationwide Arena, Blue Jackets owner John P. McConnell told The Columbus Dispatch. "My guess is we will have it within three to four years at the latest." ... Chicago's Viktor Stalberg had eight goals -- four of them game-winners -- in six games against Columbus last season. He was held off the scoresheet last night. ... Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. "This could be a week to a two-week thing," coach Todd Richards said.
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