VANCOUVER - Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad each had a goal and an assist in the second period Wednesday as the Chicago Blackhawks scored in quick succession to beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-2.
The Blackhawks exploded for four goals on five shots in a span of 7:31 in the second to erase a two-goal deficit and snap a four-game winless streak (0-2-2). Chicago bounced back after falling 5-4 to the Calgary Flames in overtime a night earlier and is now 10-1-3 in the second game of back to backs this season.
Chris Higgins and Tom Sestito had the goals for Vancouver (27-19-9), which got 36 saves from Roberto Luongo as the Canucks dropped their second straight. The Canucks hold down the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, but the ninth-place Phoenix Coyotes are three points back with two games in hand.
Things were looking good for the home side early in the second period after Sestito doubled the Canucks' 1-0 lead at 2:44 with his fifth of the season. Vancouver defenceman Ryan Stanton moved down low and fed Sestito in front, who ripped his first in 10 games past Crawford from the slot.
The Blackhawks' fifth-ranked power play finally made a breakthrough at 6:30 against the league's No. 3 penalty kill when Hossa finished off a pretty tic-tac-toe passing sequence for his 23rd of the season.
The Blackhawks tied the score 3:39 later when Saad scored his 15th of the season on a sweet deflection off a point shot from Sheldon Brookbank.
A couple of Luongo's Canadian Olympic teammates then conspired to give Chicago a lead the Blackhawks wouldn't surrender. Toews swatted a loose puck in the crease past Luongo for his 18th at 10:47 before Sharp rounded out the blitz at 14:27 when he wired a shot farside for his 27th.
Vancouver had a chance to get back in the game later in the period, but the league's 29th-ranked power play, which entered the night on a dismal 2-for-36 run, failed to generate anything.
Needing a big third period, the Canucks were unable to find a way past Crawford on another man advantage midway through the period as Toews sprawled on the goal-line to keep Higgins' effort out.
Saad then iced it with 38 seconds left into an empty net.
The Blackhawks grabbed sole possession of first in the Central Division with the victory and sit second in the conference.
With the Canucks set to begin a five-game road trip on Friday night that will take them into the Olympic break, players from both teams heading to the Games in Sochi, Russia, were honoured before the opening faceoff.
Fans at Rogers Arena were just settling into their seats after the national anthems when Higgins opened the scoring just 16 seconds into the first. Canucks forward Ryan Kesler shovelled a puck towards the Chicago goal that Higgins sent through Crawford's five-hole for his 15th goal of the season and third in the four games.
After taking that early punch to the nose, the Blackhawks carried the play for much of the rest of the period but couldn't find a way past Luongo or his posts.
Blackhawks defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson saw his shot from the point deflect off a Canucks stick and hit the crossbar. Hossa then cut in off the wing moments later and also found iron. Luongo had to be sharp later in the period, stopping a Brandon Bollig deflection and the Chicago forward's rebound chance in quick succession.
The Blackhawks were leading 13-3 on the shot clock before the Canucks pushed back late in the period. Kesler had three straight chances in front of Crawford, with the final one going off the goalie's mask but staying out.
Crawford then made a huge toe save on Canucks forward Brad Richardson in front to keep the score 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Canucks defenceman Christopher Tanev was added to Vancouver's sick bay prior to the game, missing his first game of the season with an upper-body injury. Also on the shelf at the moment is captain Henrik Sedin, who missed his fourth straight game, while fellow forward Mike Santorelli sat out his sixth straight contest.
Notes: Before the game, a banner honouring both the men's and women's hockey gold medals at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver was unveiled in the rafters at Rogers Arena. Hall of Fame defenceman Scott Niedermayer — who captained Canada's gold-winning men's team in 2010 — and former women's national team member Tessa Bonhomme, who also won gold four years ago, performed the ceremonial faceoff before the game. ... The Canucks' five-game road trip will take them to Winnipeg, Detroit, Boston, Montreal and Toronto. ... Vancouver's next home game is Feb. 26 against the St. Louis Blues. ... The Blackhawks continue their six-game pre-Olympic road trip on Saturday in San Jose.
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