Saad, Blackhawks have their way with Blue Jackets
CHICAGO — Brandon Saad earned the nickname “Man-Child” as a muscular, bearded teenager on the Chicago Blackhawks six seasons ago.
After Saad’s electrifying start to the season, teammate Patrick Kane says the nickname needs a revision.
“We were saying he’s not the ‘Man-Child’ anymore,” Kane said. “He’s just the man.”
Saad had a goal and an assist to increase his team-leading total to four goals in two games, and the Chicago Blackhawks cruised to a 5-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
Kane and Jonathan Toews also registered a goal and an assist apiece for the Blackhawks. Chicago (2-0-0), which has outscored opponents 15-2, has opened with back-to-back wins for the first time since 2014-15.
Sonny Milano scored the lone goal for the Blue Jackets. Columbus (1-1-0) dropped its third consecutive contest at the United Center, where it has not won since March 27, 2015.
“That’s the learning curve for us,” Blue Jackets veteran Nick Foligno said. “We’re a young team. That’s not an excuse, we expect to be better, but that’s the battle we’re going to fight this year is between thinking we’re a good hockey team and knowing we’re a good hockey team.
“That team, they’ve done it a lot longer than we have, but we’re a good team and we have to start thinking like that and knowing every time we step on the ice, we have to instill our game a little more.”
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 32 of 33 shots in the victory.
Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo turned aside 24 of 29 shots in his season debut.
Kane opened the scoring 1:33 after the opening faceoff to give Chicago the early lead. He snapped a rising wrist shot from the right circle for his second goal in as many games.
Later in the first period, Chicago pulled ahead 2-0 when Saad punched in a loose puck in front of the net.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville praised Saad for his aggressive start to the season.
“He’s around (the net),” Quenneville said. “His quickness is what’s been very noticeable. Quick to pucks, quick to beating the guy to the net. That line was excellent again tonight.”
A one-timer by Toews increased Chicago’s lead to 3-0 with 9:46 remaining in the second period.
Columbus coach John Tortorella said his entire team, including Korpisalo in net, needed to be sharper against a high-quality opponent in a hostile environment.
“On a back-to-back night, he’s going to have to be our best player,” Tortorella said of his netminder. “I thought he made some good saves tonight, but I thought there were some struggles along the way. ...
“To me, the third (goal), you need to keep that 2-0 there because I thought we were beginning to get ourselves going. But it’s not him. It was right through our lineup. We just were not sharp.”
Columbus answered 31 seconds later to cut the deficit to 3-1. Foligno crashed toward the crease, and Milano tapped in his second goal in as many nights.
Chicago made it 4-1 on Jan Rutta’s first career NHL goal with 7:09 left in the second period. Kane set up the score with a hard backhand pass that zipped across the slot.
“‘Kaner,’ every point he’s had has been a highlight play,” Quenneville said. “It’s special to get the opportunity to see that.”
Kane deflected the praise.
“Sometimes, you make these plays and they connect,” Kane said. “Other times, they don’t connect, and you might not make a big deal out of them. I think the guys are doing a good job of finishing them off, so I might be getting a little bit more attention.”
Richard Panik finished the scoring for the Blackhawks with 5:55 remaining in the third period.
Blackhawks center Nick Schmaltz absorbed a hard hit during the first period and did not return. Quenneville said Schmaltz likely would miss a game or two but could return later in the week.
NOTES: The Blackhawks played a video tribute in the first period for Blue Jackets LW Artemi Panarin, who spent the previous two seasons in Chicago before he was traded for LW Brandon Saad this summer. ... Blue Jackets G Sergei Bobrovsky had the night off after posting his 20th career shutout one day earlier. ... Blackhawks C Tommy Wingels made his team debut. The 29-year-old played for San Jose and Ottawa before signing with his hometown team. ... Columbus D Scott Harrington and RW Josh Anderson were healthy scratches. ... The Blackhawks held a moment of silence for Pierre Pilote, who died last month at age 85. Pilote served as team captain from 1961 to 1968.