CHICAGO – It was a night to honor the past, but the Chicago Blackhawks made sure the 21,205 fans at the United Center on Sunday night realized the present isn't so bad either.
Before routing the visiting New York Islanders 5-0 at the Madhouse on Madison, the Hawks celebrated the 50th anniversary of Chicago's 1961 Stanley Cup title by welcoming back members of that Hawks team for a memorable on-ice ceremony.
Then the current Hawks played like the defending Cup champions they are, using four second-period goals to turn a close game into a rout for the home fans to savor.
"It definitely feels good," said star forward Marian Hossa, whose goal and 2 assists led the way and earned him No. 2 star honors. "We were dominating from the beginning to the end. Everybody chipped in and we jumped on them right away."
Getting off to that good start was big for the Hawks (23-18-3), who'd looked a little sluggish in the first periods of their previous two games.
On Sunday, they outshot the Isles 16-8 in the first 20 minutes and also took a 1-0 lead into the second thanks to Patrick Sharp’s 25th goal and some sharp goaltending by Corey Crawford – who recorded his second career shutout.
Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland and Niklas Hjalmarsson also potted goals for the Hawks, all in the second along with Hossa’s to create a comfortable lead heading into the third for the first time in quite awhile.
"It's been awhile since we've had something like that," said Sharp, whose goal was also his fourth in as many games and second in the past two contests. "With a third period like that, you want to make sure you don't fall into any bad habits and stick to what works out there. I think for the most part we did that and we didn't give up too many chances defensively. When we did, (Crawford) was there for the save."
Crawford had another outstanding game, making 29 saves and getting his first shutout since March 5, 2008 at Anaheim.
One of his best saves in this one came during a breakaway by Michael Grabner in the first with the Hawks up 1-0. Grabner went to the backhand, but Crawford made a sprawling pad save in the butterfly to keep Chicago in front.
"He made a nice move on me and I couldn't get a really good push out there, so I kind of had to do the splits and stretch out," Crawford said. "I think he more threw it back into me. It was a good confidence builder."
Grabner also had another breakaway in the second, but lost the puck as he got near the net. Those were two of New York’s best scoring chances, which pleased the Hawks but frustrated the Isles – who came into the game 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and 4-1-0 in their previous five – including wins against Pittsburgh, Detroit, Calgary and Colorado.
It was the third game in four nights for the Isles (13-21-6), but coach Jack Capuano didn't want to hear it.
"This is professional hockey," he said. "This is the National Hockey League. You have to be ready to play. We talked about how it's a great atmosphere here. We talked about trying to take the crowd out of it, play a simple road game, eliminate our turnovers, get pucks deep, establish our forecheck -- and we did none of that. They're a very good hockey team, big and strong, and they controlled the play."
Sharp, who's now scored as many goals as he did all of last season, opened the scoring 4:52 into the first by firing a shot from the left circle past Isles goalie Nathan Lawson.
Hossa's goal made it 2-0 at 2:10 of the second by taking a pass from Kane in the bottom of the right circle and beating Lawson for his 10th goal. Sharp assisted on it, giving him his team-leading 14th multi-point game of the season. For Hossa, it was just his third marker in his last 22 games played, but second in the past four – a good sign for the Hawks, who are locked in a tight battle for playoff positioning in the Western Conference.
"That's huge for offensive players," Hossa said of his second 3-point game this season. "You talk to anybody and they'll tell you the same thing. It definitely feels good and now I just have to build on that."
Kane made it 3-0 at 7:19 of the second by potting his second goal in as many games and 13th of the season – one-timing a perfect feed from Jonathan Toews past Lawson. Kane also added an assist for his fifth point in the past four games.
Another one-timer at 16:24 of the second, this one by Bolland, upped it to 4-0 before Hjalmarsson made it 5-0 with just 55.4 seconds left in the period.
Hjalmarsson also finished with a 2-point night. It was also just his second goal since Nov. 26 and fourth point in that span. The Hawks also outshot New York by a 45-29 margin and killed off the Isles' only power play – which broke of a string of four straight goals allowed by Chicago's penalty-killing unit.
It also appeared for one of the few times this season that Chicago's on-ice chemistry was working similarly to the way it worked last season. For the first time in weeks, the Hawks have their full roster healthy – which means their lines have stayed intact the past few games.
That could prove to be important the rest of this month, in which five of the next seven games will be at home preceding a six-game road trip to start February.
"We're getting a little bit of everything from all the lines and there’s a purpose behind it, as well," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We've got to emphasize that we’ve got to max out every game that's out there, because we're up against it right now and we want to make sure that we put ourselves in a better position."