Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) braces himself for the face-off. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks right winger Marian Hossa is grateful that he does not have to face Corey Crawford in the opposing net.
If only the Columbus Blue Jackets could be so fortunate. Crawford stopped 32 of 33 shots, including a point-blank opportunity against Boone Jenner in the third period, and Chicago pulled away for a 3-1 win.
"It's huge," Hossa said. "'Crow' is great -- and better each year. I remember him as a young goalie, and since that time he is getting better and better. It's fun to see him so confident, so calm in the net."
As a team, the Blackhawks are feeling the same way.
Hossa scored the tiebreaking goal and Artemi Panarin scored twice as Chicago (50-21-7) secured its second 50-win regular season in franchise history. Four games remain as the Blackhawks chase the franchise record of 52 wins (2009-10).
"It's obviously nice to start thinking about maybe having home ice throughout the Western Conference finals," said Patrick Kane, who tallied three assists to increase his season total to 87 points. "We feel we have a team in here that can make a deep run, and we love playing here in this building."
Columbus (49-20-8) also has high hopes for postseason success despite tallying only nine goals in its past six contests. The Blue Jackets finished the month with a 10-4-2 record.
Nick Foligno scored the lone goal against Crawford. The Blue Jackets had a 33-24 edge in shots on goal and 61 attempts in all -- 19 of which were blocked and nine of which missed the net.
"I just want our team playing the right way and I want an aggressive mindset, and that showed up here tonight," coach John Tortorella said. "That's really important to have in a couple weeks here."
Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky allowed two goals on 23 shots to drop to 41-14-5. Bobrovsky sustained a loss in regulation for the first time since Feb. 19.
Crawford deflected credit to his teammates after he improved to 32-16-3 on the season. He has allowed two goals or fewer in three of his past four starts.
The Blackhawks killed all four power-play chances by the Blue Jackets. Defensemen Brent Seabrook and Trevor van Riemsdyk shared the team lead with four blocked shots apiece, and blue-liner Johnny Oduya blocked three shots.
"That was a fast game," Crawford said. "It was a good challenge against a team like that, one of the better teams in the league. Our (penalty kill) was really good, our d-men were blocking shots and scooped a couple away from the side of the net. We've got to keep playing like that."
The Blackhawks capitalized on an early power play to grab a 1-0 lead only 32 seconds after the opening faceoff. A faceoff win by Jonathan Toews preceded a hard wrist shot by Panarin, who netted his 27th goal of the season and his third goal in as many games.
Columbus evened the score at 1 with 2:45 to go in the first period. Sam Gagner fed a pass from behind the net to Foligno, who ripped a one-timer for his 25th goal of the season.
Twenty-two seconds later, Hossa scored on a two-on-one rush with Kane to put Chicago on top 2-1.
Panarin finished the scoring with an empty-net goal with 43.9 seconds remaining in the third period.
"Another game where we are just not able to get the offense that we need," Foligno said. "We are doing a lot of good things. There are so many other things that we are doing well in the game, it just seems that when it comes time to get that big one, we can't find it."
Chicago has earned points in 18 of its past 21 meetings against Columbus (16-3-2).
"That's a team that's been successful all year," Kane said. "You can see they play a hard game. It's not an easy game out there. I thought we played the right way."
NOTES: The Blue Jackets did not arrive in Chicago until Friday afternoon. The team's charter plane had mechanical problems Thursday night and was forced to return to Raleigh-Durham International Airport about 30 minutes after takeoff, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Team personnel arranged for players to spend the night in Raleigh, where they had lost a road game earlier in the evening against the Carolina Hurricanes. ... Blackhawks RW Jordin Tootoo returned to the lineup in place of RW Tomas Jurco, who was a healthy scratch. ... Blue Jackets RW Oliver Bjorkstrand missed his fifth consecutive game because of an upper-body injury. ... Blackhawks RW Marian Hossa scored his 525th career goal to move past Bryan Trottier for 34th place on the NHL's all-time list.