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Perreault, Jets end Blackhawks' home winning streak

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Mathieu Perreault is a good reflection of what's made the Winnipeg Jets' start one of the NHL's biggest surprises thus far.

His 5-foot-10, 185-pound body doesn't cast the most imposing figure, but his tenacious play makes up for it. The Chicago Blackhawks found that out the hard way at United Center on Tuesday, when Perreault scored two goals in the Jets' 5-1 win to extend his point streak to eight games.

"[He's] real confident with the puck now, getting it off his stick quick and no second-guessing," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. "We need that. He's such a good guy in the room. He works so hard. That's the big thing. For not a big man, he just fights for every puck and when he scores, the guys appreciate that even more."

The loss snapped an eight-game home winning streak for the Blackhawks (23-10-2), who hadn't lost at home since Nov. 7 against the Washington Capitals, a span of 20 games.

"We look at all year long, it was one game that will stick out that it was one of those nights that we didn't have much going for us across the board, early and often," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Dig a [3-0 or 4-0 deficit] against you, you’re not going to win many games."

It was the 12th time in the past 13 games Winnipeg (18-10-7) recorded at least a point, despite its top four defensemen sidelined with long-term injuries. The Jets are getting through it with gritty two-way play from a number of players, but spearheaded by Perreault of late.

He scored the first and fourth goals for Winnipeg, which scored three goals in the first period and four straight to start the game. Perreault has four goals and five assists during his streak and six goals in the past 10 games.

"I had a little bit of a rough start to the season, but as of late it's been going well," said Perreault, who heated up offensive after Maurice switched him from center to left wing on the second line. "I'm playing with [Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik], two great players I've mentioned so many times. It's clicking for our line, so we'll just go with it."

Things went near perfect for Winnipeg in the first 20 minutes.

The Jets dominated the first period in almost every facet against one of the NHL's elite puck-possession and scoring teams. They held a 15-7 advantage in shots at the first intermission, but more importantly led 3-0 on goals by Perreault, Bryan Little and Anthony Peluso.

Perreault started the scoring at 9:04 with his seventh goal, which came as the result of an errant exit pass from the defensive zone by Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. A quick transition sent the puck right back into the Chicago zone, where former Blackhawks forward Michael Frolik tapped a short pass to Perreault in the slot.

Using Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya as a screen, Perreault scored with a wrist shot that beat goalie Corey Crawford over the glove. Little made it 2-0 at 13:18 with a snap shot that deflected past Crawford off Oduya's stick shaft and Peluso pushed the lead to 3-0 at 15:30 with his first goal of the season and first since Dec. 31, 2013.

That one, scored off a loose puck around the crease, prompted a goalie change. Crawford was replaced by Antti Raanta after allowing three goals against 13 shots. Raanta made 11 saves to finish it out, but Perreault scored his second of the game on a power play in the second for a four-goal lead.

Blake Wheeler scored into an empty net at 15:17 of the third to complete the scoring. Former Blackhawks Andrew Ladd (two assists), Michael Frolik (assist) and Dustin Byfuglien (assist) each helped set up three of the Jets' first four goals.

Marian Hossa made it 4-1 at 12:05 of the second, but the Blackhawks outshot the Jets 32-10 in the final two periods. They just couldn't get another puck past goalie Michael Hutchinson (38 saves), who improved to 8-2-2 and defeated them for the second time this season at United Center.

"They had some good chances, but a lot of them didn't even get to the net," Hutchinson said. "Our backcheck and our [defensemen] did a great job of intercepting their passes and just disrupting it enough so they couldn't get a shot off. That is huge for us, just being prepared to play good defense knowing how much offense the other team has."

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