The last thing the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets needed was to face a Chicago team trying to break out of a slump of its own.
The Jackets lost for the 13th time in their 15 games this season as Hawks captain Jonathan Toews scored twice in the first period to spark Chicago to a 6-3 victory at Nationwide Arena on Thursday night.
Corey Crawford stopped 27 shots for his seventh win of the season as Chicago (9-4-3) made it another long night for the last-place Blue Jackets (2-12-1) and goalie Steve Mason, who was beaten six times on 34 shots.
"We looked like a group that's very fragile," said Jackets coach Scott Arniel, whose team hadn't played since being routed 9-2 in Philadelphia on Saturday. "We got off to a very slow, fragile start. We probably deserved to come out of the period 1-1, tough goal there the second one … then it was obviously wide open after that."
Toews opened the scoring at 6:54 of the first when Mason spilled Viktor Stalberg's shot right into the path of the captain, who finished into the open net. Columbus pulled even at 9:47 when Grant Clitsome beat Crawford with a power-play slap shot, but Toews put the Hawks ahead to stay when he beat Mason through the pads from a tough angle at 17:09.
"We just wanted to try and wear them down and discourage them a little bit," Toews said of the Blue Jackets. "We knew it wasn't about what they do as a team, it was more about us being prepared and getting back to the way we play."
Two power-play strikes early in the second period gave Chicago some breathing room. Andrew Brunette scored in the scrum after Marcus Kruger's shot deflected to him at 1:25, followed at 9:07 by Steve Montador's one-timer from the top of the crease off a pass from Duncan Keith. Late in the period, Patrick Kane took a centered pass from Daniel Carcillo at the red line and skated in on Mason, deking right then slipping it through the five-hole to make it 5-1 after two periods.
"Any mistake we (make) it just ends up in the back of the net," defenseman James Wisniewski said. "A lot of guys are hanging their heads, which we have to get over. We just have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and start playing some hockey."
The Hawks, who entered the night with just five power-play goals on 57 tries, scored twice in three tries against the Jackets.
"We had a real good first period and then all of a sudden we get the power play going and we get some excitement in our team, as well," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of his team's highest-scoring game of the season. "It was nice to see a couple nice plays, a couple nice finishes around the net."
"There's no magic to a good power play," said Montador, who also assisted on Brunette's goal. "It's just good, quick passes, shots on net, do your thing."
In the third, Marian Hossa picked up where Kane left off, cleaning up a loose puck in front of net just 32 seconds into the period. Mark Letestu, acquired earlier this week from Pittsburgh, scored a power-play goal at 2:20 and Clitsome netted another long-range effort with 3:46 remaining.
But that was all Columbus – which was roundly booed by the 15,048 in attendance at Nationwide Arena – could muster.
"We do look like we're skating in quicksand at times," Arniel said. "Maybe it's thinking, maybe it's second-guessing themselves, I'm not sure. We'll talk about it, we'll go back and look at it tomorrow and try to find a solution."