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Blue Jackets handle Blackhawks again

by Brian Compton / NHL.com
There's something about the Chicago Blackhawks that brings out the best in the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Jakub Voracek had a goal and two assists and Steve Mason made 33 saves as the Jackets defeated the Blackhawks for the second time in four nights with a 4-2 victory at the United Center on Sunday.

"It's pretty encouraging," Blue Jackets interim coach Claude Noel said. "They look like they're gaining more confidence by the day. It's really big for us."

Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp scored for Chicago, which is 2-4-2 in its last eight games. The Blackhawks, who received a 16-save performance from Antti Niemi, suffered an 8-3 loss in Columbus on Thursday night.

The loss also dropped Chicago five points behind San Jose in the battle for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Sharks beat Colorado at HP Pavilion on Sunday night.

"We're certainly not pleased with the pace of our game," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was noticeable tonight. We haven't gotten the offense or the production we've been looking for. I think everyone should be looking to improve with the objective in mind of being a better team."

Bolland broke a scoreless tie 8:58 into the game, thanks to some help from Blue Jackets forward Antoine Vermette. After Mason denied Brent Seabrook's blast, Bolland attempted to bang home the rebound, but missed. Vermette then tried to clear the crease, but instead accidentally tapped the puck over the goal line as Chicago took a 1-0 lead.

Andrew Murray erased the deficit for Columbus less than two minutes later, however, when he seized control of a loose puck in the crease and knocked it past Niemi to make it 1-1. It was Murray's fourth goal of the season.

The Blue Jackets held a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes after scoring a pair of goals in the second period. Voracek put Columbus in front at 13:25, when he pounced on Derick Brassard's rebound and slammed it past Niemi. Mike Commodore doubled the lead with 6.3 seconds remaining when his shot from the point beat a screened Niemi.

"We knew they were going to come out hard, and they did," Commodore said. "I think we've learned to be more consistent. We're relying on each other more and more and we're just making some better plays. We've been playing pretty well."

Sharp cut it to 3-2 with 3:13 left in the third when he scored on a shorthanded breakaway. The goal set off a late Chicago offensive flurry, but Voracek scored into an empty net with eight seconds remaining.

"It's not good," Seabrook said. "We showed some fight and we showed some pop in our step in the third period, but we gave up chances. We didn't get guys to the net with traffic. We've got to shore up the offensive side of our game, but we've also got to shore up the defensive side. We can't be giving up eight goals, four goals … we can't be giving up that many goals a game."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.


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