The Blackhawks will try to head into the Olympic break with their fourth consecutive victory Sunday against the host Blue Jackets, who have won three of four under interim coach Claude Noel.
“It was a lot to take in today, but I felt good,” said Johnsson, who had six goals and eight assists in 52 games with the Wild. “It’s a great team here. It’s pretty easy to play with good players.”
His marker helped Chicago (40-15-5) take a 3-1 lead after one period, but the Blackhawks allowed three second-period tallies before Dave Bolland(notes) evened the score early in the third. Jonathan Toews(notes) recorded the only shootout goal to push the Blackhawks’ Central Division lead to 16 points over Nashville.
“We were fortunate to be up 3-1,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s a tough game, and tomorrow is going to be challenging as well. We’re going to be facing a hungry team. We have to be sharp in all areas.”
Chicago will now try to improve to 4-0 against the Blue Jackets this season. Among those wins were a home-and-home sweep Jan. 14-16.
Those contests were part of a 6-17-7 slump for Columbus, which split its next eight games before firing coach Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 3.
The Blue Jackets responded immediately to Noel, a former AHL coach from 2003-07 who inherited one of the league’s worst defenses at 3.19 goals per game.
Columbus (25-28-9) outscored its next three opponents 9-1, including consecutive shutouts, but missed extending that winning streak Friday. A fluke goal proved to be the difference in a 4-3 loss to Vancouver.
“They were quiet the whole time in the locker room,” Noel said after the game. “I really liked the fact that they sat there. It shows me that they care and they don’t phony care. I can cut through that stuff pretty easily.”
The Blue Jackets, winners in five of their last seven at Nationwide Arena, have scored at least three goals in three straight games.
Chicago rookie Antti Niemi(notes) has surrendered seven goals in the past two games, but stopped all eight shootout attempts. With the Blackhawks playing the second of back-to-back games, they may go with Cristobal Huet(notes), who hasn’t started since Feb. 5 but is 3-0-0 with a 2.61 goals-against average versus Columbus this season.
Huet blew an early two-goal advantage in a 6-5 road victory over the Blue Jackets on Jan. 16.
Mason, who gave up all six goals in the loss, is one defeat shy of matching last season’s total as he won the Calder Trophy. He has only 16 wins so far, less than half the 33 posted in 2008-09.
Mason is 0-1-1 with a 4.40 GAA against the Blackhawks this season.
The Blackhawks could be missing a key player for this game. Quenneville said high-scoring Marian Hossa(notes) was doubtful after he absorbed a hard check in the third period Saturday and left the game.
Earlier in the contest, Hossa—a member of the Slovakian Olympic team— recorded his NHL-leading fifth short-handed goal and 17th of the season in only 37 games. Hossa sat out the first 22 games while recovering from shoulder surgery.