Saad, Kane, Toews lead Blackhawks past Blue Jackets
CHICAGO (AP) — The Blackhawks and their marquee players are starting the season in high gear.
Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had a goal and assist to lead Chicago over the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 on Saturday night.
Richard Panik also scored and Jan Rutta got his first NHL goal as the Blackhawks followed up on a season-opening 10-1 rout of Pittsburgh with another overwhelming performance.
Saad, one of four players to open the season with a hat trick this week, has four goals and an assist in his first two games. Kane boosted his totals to two goals and four assists.
“I thought we did some good things offensively,” Kane said. “But two big wins. Hopefully we can build off this.”
Saad returned to Chicago in an offseason deal that sent Artemi Panarin to the Blue Jackets, and he looks better than ever.
The rugged 24-year-old forward spent his first three seasons with the Blackhawks before he was traded to Columbus in 2015 in a salary cap squeeze — and just before he became a restricted free agent.
“We’re saying he’s not a man-child anymore,” Kane said. “He’s just a man.”
Coach Joel Quenneville was more specific about Saad.
“His quickness has been very noticeable” Quenneville said. “Quick to pucks, quick to beating a guy to the net. That line (Saad-Toews-Panik) was excellent again tonight.”
Chicago center Nick Schmaltz was hit hard by two defensemen as Kane scored the opening goal 1:33 in. He later left the game with an upper-body injury and is expected to miss at least two games, Quenneville said.
Sonny Milano scored for the Blue Jackets, who blanked the New York Islanders 5-0 in their opener Friday in Columbus.
Corey Crawford made 32 saves for Chicago, while Joonas Korpisalo blocked 24 shots.
Panarin got a loud ovation during a first-period video tribute in his return to the United Center, but the Blue Jackets weren’t able to make much noise or sustain pressure offensively.
“Were going to face teams like that and we’ve got to find a way to stop the momentum and try to chip away,” coach John Tortorella said. “I don’t think we were sharp, right on through our lineup.”
The Blackhawks were on target for second straight game.
“It’s unique team and you’ve got to play against them with respect,” Korpisalo said.
The Blackhawks jumped ahead 2-0 with a dominant first period.
Kane scored on the Blackhawks’ first shot when he was left open at the low edge of the right circle.
Jack Johnson and Gabriel Carlsson leveled Schmaltz on the left side of the crease during the play. Schmaltz took a minute to get up, then skated slowly to the bench with help from trainer Mike Gapski.
Saad made it 2-0 at 6:04 with a power-play goal when he converted a rebound from a goalmouth scrum.
Chicago extended its lead to 4-1 after 40 minutes.
Set up by Saad, Toews one-timed in his first goal this season from the left circle at 10:14 of the second. The play was set up when Panik knocked Seth Jones off the puck behind the Columbus net.
Milano cut it to 3-1 31 seconds later when he poked in Nick Foligno’s feed that slid along the goal line behind Crawford.
Rutta pinched in to the right circle and scored on a shot that deflected in off Korpisalo’s glove at 12:51 of the second to make it 4-1.
Saad narrowly missed connecting again during a power-play midway through the third. Panik completed the scoring with 5:55 left when he whipped in a loose puck after a face-off.
NOTES: NBC and Blackhawks TV analyst Eddie Olczyk visited the United Center press box after having surgery for colon cancer 11 weeks ago. Some in the crowd of 21,264, chanted “Eddie, Eddie,” when a live shot of Olczyk, who played 16 seasons in the NHL, was shown on the scoreboard. ... Schmaltz had hobbled off the ice in the third period of Thursday’s game, but was back on a line with Kane and Ryan Hartman for his first shift Saturday before being injured again. ... RW Tommy Wingels made his Blackhawks debut as C Tanner Kero sat out. Wingels, who signed a one-year free agent deal, is from Chicago’s north suburbs. ... The Blackhawks had a pregame video tribute and moment of silence for Pierre Pilote, their captain from 1961 to 1968, who died last month at age 85.
Blue Jackets: Play at Carolina on Tuesday.
Blackhawks: Play at Toronto on Monday.
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