Blackhawks move back atop Central Division with victory

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Artemi Panarin celebrates with Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews, right, after scoring a power-play goal in the second period on Wednesday. (AP Photo)

DETROIT — The February doldrums are in the past. The deadline reinforcements have arrived. And the Blackhawks just might be flipping the switch into playoff mode.

“You can feel our team is confident right now, and the chemistry has almost come together right away for the new guys coming in,” Corey Crawford said after the Hawks rolled past the Detroit Red Wings 5-2, their second straight impressive victory. “We’ve just got to keep building on these games, the way we’ve played.”

While Christian Ehrhoff had a very promising debut, and Dale Weise finally arrived in the United States to make his debut in Boston, it was the Hawks’ big guns who starred in the kind of fast-paced affair these two erstwhile rivals have come to expect.

Brent Seabrook and Patrick Kane each had a goal and two assists, Artemi Panarin scored two goals, and Crawford — fresh off being chosen for Team Canada’s World Cup roster — made 31 saves, coming up huge in the second period before the Hawks broke the game wide open with consecutive power-play goals.

It was Crawford’s 34th victory, a career high. It was Seabrook’s 13th goal, extending his career high. It was Kane’s 37th goal, extending his career high, and he now has 88 points, tying his career high. Dallas’ Jamie Benn led the league last season with 87 points; Kane’s past that already, with 17 games left in the season.

“It’s good; it’s nice having fun playing hockey, that’s for sure,” Kane said. “It’s always fun when you put up numbers, but at the same time you want to keep improving, keep playing the right way. … You try to continue it and keep it going.”

The turning point of the game came late in the second period, when the Hawks were clinging to a 1-0 lead provided by Seabrook’s goal early in the first. Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall — two of Detroit’s top penalty-killers — took overlapping penalties, and the Hawks pounced. With Jonathan Toews providing a pick in the low slot, Kane fed Artemi Panarin with a cross-crease pass for a goal — the Hawks’ go-to set play during 5-on-3 play. Seabrook then took a hit along the boards to make a pass that led to Kane’s goal on the remaining power play.

Andrew Ladd added his first goal with the Hawks since 2010 late in the third, and Kane set up Panarin for another goal 35 seconds later.

“Their hockey IQ is tremendous,” Joel Quenneville said of Kane and Panarin. “Like the Sedin twins, they have that you-know-where-the-other-guy-is instant. They’re growing. I’d like to see them one day catch them.”

For now, the Hawks are just happy to have caught the Stars — the two straight wins moved them into sole possession of first place in the cutthroat Central Division. The playoff push is under way.

“We’ve played pretty well all year,” Crawford said. “But, yeah, no easy games going into the end, and we definitely want home-ice advantage.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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