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Chicago Blackhawks stop slide against Winnipeg Jets

By Geoff Kirbyson, The Sports Xchange
Chicago Blackhawks stop slide against Winnipeg Jets
Brent Seabrook has been an elite defenseman in the NHL for more than a decade but it was his goaltending skills that were front and center as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 Friday night at the MTS Centre. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Brent Seabrook has been an elite defenseman in the NHL for more than a decade but it was his goaltending skills that were front and center as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 Friday night at the MTS Centre.

With the visitors (34-17-5) clinging to a 2-1 lead late in the second period, the Jets (25-28-4) looked to be about to tie it as a deflected shot off the stick of captain Blake Wheeler squeaked through Corey Crawford's legs and dribbled agonizingly toward the goal line.

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But Seabrook quickly appeared to his goaltender's right and swept the puck aside to safety.

"He was there all night," Crawford said. "I could play the shot and be aggressive and I knew he'd be back there. He was awesome. He might have had 12 saves tonight."

In fact, Seabrook led all players with six blocked shots.

Marian Hossa said Seabrook's save gave his team some much-needed momentum.

"The games have all those little things and (Seabrook) made an unbelievable play otherwise the game could have played out a little bit differently," Hossa said. "He was right there in the right spot helping (Crawford)."

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Coach Joel Quenneville said Seabrook did much more than sacrifice his body all night long.

"I thought he played very strong. He was shooting the puck well, defending around the net, he had a good stick, he made a lot of kill plays defensively," Joel Quenneville said.

Crawford made 28 stops in the Blackhawks net while his counterpart, Connor Hellebuyck, turned aside 31 at the other end of the ice.

The Jets sophomore goalie was playing his 37th game of the season but only the second since Ondrej Pavelec was called up from the Manitoba Moose last month. Pavelec pulled himself out of Wednesday's loss to the Minnesota Wild and watched this game from the press box.

The Blackhawks scored by committee with singles from forwards Hossa, Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov, and Artemi Panarin and defenseman Duncan Keith. Hossa and Panarin scored into an empty net. The Jets replied with a goal each from centers Bryan Little and Adam Lowry.

Chicago, winners of three Stanley Cups in the last seven years, inexplicably came into this game on a four-game losing streak to the Jets, who have made the playoffs one time since relocating to Winnipeg in 2011.

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Kane, who opened the scoring and finished with two points, said the Blackhawks exacted some timely revenge in the past two games, also defeating the Minnesota Wild, who had beaten them eight consecutive times, on Wednesday.

"I think it's even more important that, you know, we were in the same position against the Jets the last time, up a goal in the third, and didn't get the job done," he said. "We did what we had to tonight, scored a late goal, a big goal there by (Keith) and couple empty netters. It feels good to beat these guys, especially after they've had the success they've had against us."

Jets coach Paul Maurice said the trio of Panarin, Anisimov and Kane -- officially the Blackhawks' No. 2 line -- made things difficult on his troops.

"I've watched Chicago play more than possibly any other team other than ours. The development of Patrick Kane's game has been so impressive over the last two or three years where it used to be a little bit trading of chances and they liked that because he's going to finish better than most. They compete hard when they don't have the puck and they'll battle to get the puck back. That's a skill set that you only see on a handful of guys," he said.

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"We maybe have one or two of them. In a few years, when you look at the way they move a puck through the seams, you see glimpses of that from (wingers) Patty Laine and Nik Ehlers, they'll be able to find each other and stay out of heavy traffic areas and still be able to execute those plays. It's a different set of hands. Anisimov is certainly a good player but those two wingers are highly unusual and very elite."

NOTES:

-- Jets D Ben Chiarot was reinserted into the lineup after missing four weeks with a hand injury. His return meant a seat in the press box for D Mark Stuart. Joining him were RW Chris Thorburn and G Ondrej Pavelec.

-- Scratches for the Blackhawks were RW Jordin Tootoo, LW Andrew Desjardins and D Gustav Forsling.

-- The Jets have been short-handed 66 times in the third period this season, tops in the NHL.

-- Three Chicago players are from Manitoba. Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith were born in Winnipeg while Tootoo was born in the northern outpost of Churchill.

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-- With three points against Minnesota on Wednesday night, Toews passed Jeremy Roenick for ninth in franchise history with 597 career points.

-- Chicago TV broadcaster Eddie Olczyk played parts of five seasons for the first version of the Jets in the 1990s. One of his teammates for two seasons was Troy Murray, the analyst on Chicago radio broadcasts.

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