It's that time of year again when the Blackhawks begin wistfully looking at the calendar and counting the days until the postseason.
Currently standing in second place in the Central Division, the Hawks are headed for the playoffs barring a collapse of epic proportions so a little extra edge often is needed for mid-February contests.
"When you're in the middle of the grind in the middle of the season you always have to try to find a small motivation somehow to be able to push yourself," defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said before the Hawks beat the Jets 5-2 Friday night at the MTS Centre.
The Hawks used the fact they had lost eight consecutive regular-season games to the Wild to up their effort Wednesday night in Minnesota and drew motivation for Friday's tilt from trying to avoid the Jets sweeping them in all five of their games this season.
"It's more of an embarrassment to go 0-5 in the regular season," Hjalmarsson said. "We're playing a lot for our pride."
Artemi Panarin had a goal and two assists, Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov and Duncan Keith each had a goal and an assist and Corey Crawford came up big in net to help the Hawks extend their winning streak to four games. Marian Hossa also scored as the Hawks improved to 1-4 against a Jets team that had had their number this season.
Coupled with their 4-3 victory over the Wild in overtime Wednesday night, the Hawks head into their final game before their week off — a showdown against the Oilers on Saturday night — on a serious roll.
"It was important," coach Joel Quenneville said of the triumph that improved the Hawks' record to 34-17-5. "Minnesota has your number and then you come in and another team has your number (so) it's nice to stop the schneid. It puts us in a good spot with a little momentum going into the finish of this trip.
"Looking at the schedule after we began this trip after the break it was an important stretch for us knowing that we can make or break our year and put us in the right spot. We've captured some momentum here. It has been real positive trip for us and (Friday night) might have been the best."
Kane and Panarin worked some magic to get the Hawks off to a strong start in the opening period. After Jets captain Blake Wheeler failed to clear the zone, Panarin found a wide-open Kane and the winger didn't miss on firing a one-timer from the right circle past Jets net-minder Connor Hellebuyck to the short side. The goal gave Kane 269 for his career, passing Tony Amonte as the American with the most goals in Hawks franchise history.
Early in the second, Bryan Little banged in a rebound of a Toby Enstrom shot to tie it but the second line again came through for the Hawks as Anisimov batted in a rebound of a Panarin shot for a 2-1 advantage.
Keith's blast from just inside the blue line gave the Hawks a two-goal lead and they cruised from there, including empty-net scores from Hossa and Panarin sandwiched around an Adam Lowry goal for the Jets.
"It was just a solid game from us," Crawford said. "We have to keep rolling and building more momentum. This could be one of our best games. We have to keep playing like that."
CHRIS KUC'S 3 STARS
1. Artem Anisimov, Hawks: Center had his ninth multi-point game of the season with a goal and an assist.
2. Patrick Kane, Hawks: Extended his points streak to four games with a goal and an assist.
3. Corey Crawford, Hawks: Goaltender made 28 saves to improve to 22-12-3 on the season.
At Oilers, 9 p.m. Saturday, WGN-9
Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.