The Blackhawks wanted to send a message Friday night against the upstart Winnipeg Jets.
“We don’t want anybody coming in here thinking they can beat us three times in one season,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said before the game.
Instead, the Jets sent a message of their own.
Winnipeg scored twice in a 28-second span midway through the third period to hand the Hawks a 4-2 loss and complete a stunning season sweep at the United Center. The Hawks have lost six times in regulation at home this season; half of those have come against the Jets. In fact, dating back to last season, the Jets have won four straight in Chicago.
“They’ve got our number,” Bryan Bickell said. “What can you say?”
The Jets already had walked out of the United Center with two wins earlier in the season, a 1-0 theft and a 5-1 shellacking. This one moved them to within two points of the Hawks and St. Louis Blues for second place in the Central Division standings (Nashville is six points ahead with a game in hand on the Hawks). As a distinctly possible playoff opponent for the Hawks, this game carried a little more significance than your average mid-January contest.
Bickell even said it felt like a playoff game.
“It’s a good hockey team,” Quenneville said. “We don’t give anybody anything. Certainly, they’ve earned it.”
The Hawks were coming off a four-day break, while the Jets were playing their fifth game in seven nights, having played the previous night in Dallas. But both teams came out flying in a fast and physical first period, which saw 28 total shots on goal and two big fights — Anthony Peluso putting a beating on Bickell, and Brent Seabrook doing the same to Jim Slater. The Jets have shown a knack for bringing out the physical side in the Hawks, a new rivalry festering and just begging for a playoff showdown in the spring.
“They play us smart,” Bickell said. “Hats off to them. They played a good game to find a way after a back-to-back.”
Brandon Saad scored in the first minute of the game, and Zach Bogosian tied it midway through the period. Things calmed down in the second period, until a late flurry by the Jets and an even later scrum along the boards. Mathieu Perreault slashed the stick out of Duncan Keith’s hands, and Daniel Carcillo responded by cross-checking Perreault from behind with 9.4 seconds left, appearing to injure Perreault’s arm and knocking him out of the game.
A source said that Carcillo’s hit — deemed “vicious” by Jets coach Paul Maurice — was being looked at by the NHL’s department of player safety, which had yet to come to a decision on Friday night. Carcillo’s lengthy history and the injury to Perreault will both factor into the decision.
Another ill-timed play, an Andrew Shaw holding penalty, led to Bryan Little’s go-ahead power-play goal at 9:31 of the third period. Chris Thorburn scored immediately afterward — a much-needed insurance goal as Teuvo Teravainen scored the first goal of his NHL career two minutes later in what was easily his best game. Andrew Ladd added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal yet another win for Winnipeg.
“They’re definitely a team that can win,” Quenneville said. “They can win anywhere and they can beat anybody, because they work their tails off.”