Blackhawks' Lehner makes 36 saves in win over Winnipeg
Robin Lehner made 36 saves -- 9 of which came during a four-minute Winnipeg power play -- in backstopping the Blackhawks to a 5-2 victory over the Jets at the United Center on Sunday.
Alex Nylander, Erik Gustafsson, David Kampf, Brandon Saad and Dominik Kubalik scored as the Hawks ran their winning streak to five straight. At 24-20-6, coach Jeremy Colliton's team is now tied with Winnipeg (25-20-4) for fourth place in the Central Division and is 3 points behind Vegas and Arizona in the wild-card chase.
Patrick Kane recorded the 1,000th point of his career Saad's goal, which gave the Hawks a 4-1 lead with 5:46 remaining.
"We're finally starting to get a full buy-in to the system (and) a full effort level," said Lehner, who improved to 15-7-4. "Fifteen games ago we started playing good with leads, playing different -- not backing up. Just keep going at em. We did the same thing today in the third."
Lehner was really put to the test after Drake Caggiula was whistled for interference and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties at 4:20 of the second period. Lehner turned away multiple close-in shots, including 4 in just 19 seconds at 6:48, 6:55, 7:00 and 7:07.
"Obviously the first 10 minutes of the second was a bit of a workout," said Lehner, who was protecting a 2-0 lead that the Hawks earned on goals by Nylander and Gustafsson. "But we stuck with it. We battled hard together and got through it."
The Hawks blocked 24 shots, with Connor Murphy (6) and Olli Maata (5) leading the way.
Nylander's goal, his sixth, was his first in a month. Kubalik now has 21 goals, 10 of which have come in the last eight contests.
Cuckoo for Koekkoek:
Defenseman Slater Koekkoek played in his sixth straight game -- a season high -- during the Hawks' victory over Winnipeg.
Koekkoek, acquired from Tampa Bay for Jan Rutta on Jan. 11, 2019, was only in the lineup nine times from Games 13-40. But since being paired with Olli Maatta, the 25-year-old has impressed coach Jeremy Colliton with his simple, direct approach.
As the healthy scratches were piling up, Colliton said the staff told Koekkoek that he was doing a good job and was "on the right path."
"This latest opportunity that he's had," Colliton continued, "he's found another level to his performance and he's made it impossible for us to take him out."
Koekkoek, who played 18 minutes against the Jets, had assists in the three previous games.
Sikura back to Rockford:
Dylan Sikura was reassigned to Rockford on Sunday and played at the Allstate Arena in the IceHogs' 2-0 victory over the Chicago Wolves. Sikura had 1 goal and 2 assists in nine games with the Blackhawks and was a healthy scratch in three of the last five contests.
Coach Jeremy Colliton felt Sikura was outplayed in "those depth positions."
"I'm not unhappy with his play," Colliton said. "He showed he can play in the league definitely and he's part of the group we have going forward. But he hasn't played lately either and I see other guys playing ahead of him for now."
Drake Caggiula became the first Blackhawks player since Ben Eager in 2009 to take 4 minor penalties in one game. ... The Blackhawks reassigned Brandon Hagel and D-man Dennis Gilbert to Rockford after Sunday's game. ... Erik Gustafsson leads the Hawks' blue liners with 6 goals. ... The Hawks have outscored opponents 52-44 in the first period.