Jonathan Toews leads Blackhawks to blowout of Hurricanes

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Jonathan Toews celebrates his goal against the Hurricanes during the first period Monday at the United Center. | Andrew A. Nelles/AP

For Antoine Vermette, there was one thing that really stood out about playing in the United Center for the first time as a member of the home team.

“That song sounded way better,” he said.

Vermette might not know its name, but he got to hear “Chelsea Dagger” a bunch Monday night, as the Blackhawks rolled past the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2, for their third win in their last four games. Not counting empty-netters, it was the first time in nine games that the Hawks scored more than two goals in a game. And while new guys Vermette and Kimmo Timonen didn’t figure on the scoresheet, their excitement about suddenly being thrust into a playoff push appeared to rub off on their teammates.

“For sure, it felt like that today,” said Corey Crawford, who pushed his shutout streak to 104 minutes, 29 seconds before giving up a pair of goals with the game well in hand. “We had a little bit more jump to our game, we were skating well, moving the puck well. It definitely affected us tonight.”

The spotlight was on the new guys, but the old guys did most of the work. Jonathan Toews scored twice, crossing the 20-goal plateau for the eight time in his eight-season career, and making it five goals in five games. Brandon Saad reached 20 goals for the first time in his career, Marcus Kruger scored his second goal since Dec. 3, and Marian Hossa chipped in a goal as the Hawks chased Cam Ward from the net.

Meanwhile, the Hawks killed off 74 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play when the score was still 2-0 early in the second, with Joakim Nordstrom and Saad taking over some of the penalty-killing time vacated by Ben Smith, traded to San Jose earlier in the day.

Toews got it started at 8:07 of the first, sprung through the slot on a beautiful Michal Rozsival pass. Toews added a shorthanded goal off a Keith feed early in the second. After the Hawks killed off the 5-on-3 and Crawford made several big stops, Saad put in his own rebound, and Kruger put in an Andrew Shaw rebound to make it 4-1.

John-Michael Liles broke up Crawford’s bid for a second straight shutout early in the third, but Hossa rifled a shot past Anton Khudobin three minutes later to make it 5-1. Alexander Semin scored for Carolina with 70 seconds left.

Vermette struggled at the dot, losing six of his first seven faceoffs, but the line of Patrick Sharp, Vermette and Saad generated several chances. Timonen saw time on the penalty kill and blocked a couple of shots in 17:29 of ice time in his first game this season.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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