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Toews, Blackhawks dominate Jets

The SportsXchange

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- He didn't do much damage the last time he was in Winnipeg, but Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews was a wrecking ball Thursday night.

Playing in front of dozens of family members and friends, the Chicago captain had a four-point performance to lead the Blackhawks to a 6-3 triumph over the Winnipeg Jets.

Toews scored his 11th goal of the season, a highlight-reel tally midway through the second period, and chipped in three assists. He sneaked out from the corner, weaved his way around lanky defenseman Keaton Ellerby and then deftly flicked the puck over goaltender Ondrej Pavelec's shoulder.

The Winnipeg-born center also made a nifty play midway through the third to set up Marian Hossa for the game-winner as the Blackhawks snapped a 3-3 tie with three unanswered goals.

The goal was the 10th of the year for Hossa, a veteran right winger just back from an injury. Just over two minutes later, Ben Smith came off the right wing, picked up a pass and fired his third of the season to give the visitors a two-goal cushion.

The Blackhawks (15-4-4) defeated the Jets (10-11-3) all three times the clubs have met this season.

Toews was kept off the score sheet Nov. 2 during his first-ever stop at the MTS Centre as the Blackhawks easily knocked off the Jets 5-1. On this night, however, there was no stopping he and linemates, Hossa and Patrick Sharp.

"It's nice to see a few go in. As I always say, sometimes they go in and sometimes they don't. As a line, we reached back and found some momentum, got a couple of bounces and it was nice to see some results," said Toews. "Any night you'll take that, but it's special to have that happen in Winnipeg."

Sharp added his eighth goal of the year into an empty net.

Right winger Patrick Kane, standing alone at the point, took a pass from Toews and ripped his 12th goal for the Blackhawks, a power-play marker and the only goal of the first period.

Brandon Saad scored his fifth early in the second period for the visitors.

Toews had an easy answer on why the trio clicks.

"It's just balance," he said. "I think Sharpie and I have been doing a good job of keeping the puck alive and playing the corners, and Hossa is always in the right spot. Either he's in the slot or he's open on the other side.

"And if Sharpie or I turn the puck over, Hossa's getting the puck back for us. So, we're not afraid to make mistakes because Hossa gets five or six takeaways a night."

Chicago led 1-0 after the first period and 2-0 early in the second, but the Jets stormed back to make it 3-3 through 40 minutes.

Jets captain Andrew Ladd and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien both scored their sixth goals of the season, and Ellerby scored his first. Winnipeg center and leading scorer Bryan Little added two assists.

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford made 22 saves and Pavelec had 26.

Crawford said he likes his vantage point when the talented Blackhawks forwards start throwing the puck around.

"We're a team that definitely scores key goals at key times. We're never out of a game," he said. "That's the sort of confidence we have right now. No matter, what happens, we're still in it and we have enough power to get back into a game."

Winnipeg coach Claude Noel didn't sugarcoat things after the loss.

"We've got a long way to go. I didn't think we had a lot of good players," he said. "Their skill was evident in the game. We didn't have enough good players or strong players. They won a lot of battles in the hard areas.

"When they win (Stanley) Cups in those years, you can see why," he said, of the reigning NHL champions. "They stepped it up and we weren't able to step up."

Byfuglien went the first 18 games of the year without a goal but has six in the last six games.

By contrast, left winger Evander Kane had two good scoring chances in the final period but couldn't beat Crawford. The Jets' second-line forward hasn't lit the lamp in 10 games.

NOTES: Heavily armed police officers were rather conspicuous at the MTS Centre on Thursday night as Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, a huge hockey fan, was in the building. ... RW Marian Hossa returned to the Blackhawks' lineup after missing three games with a lower-body injury. But the club learned that LW Bryan Bickell will miss the next two to three weeks with a lower-body injury, suffered Tuesday in Colorado when he slid into the Avalanche net in the first period. ... The Jets were missing three of their top defensemen in Jacob Trouba (neck), Zach Bogosian (groin) and Mark Stuart (hip) Thursday night. ... Chicago G Corey Crawford entered the game tied with three others for most wins (13) and most games played (20) this NHL season. ... Winnipeg hockey fans had to leave their helmets at home Thursday night. A radio DJ's stunt to convince patrons to bring their buckets was stopped by the hockey club Wednesday. The campaign was to mimic the Blackhawks fan who, earlier this month, grabbed the helmet off Jets D Adam Pardy in Chicago and wore it. Pardy also had a beer poured over his head during the bizarre incident when a big collision knocked out a glass partition.
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