WINNIPEG -- The Chicago Blackhawks made Jonathan Toews a happy captain in his return to his hometown Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.
After letting the Jets hang around in the first period, the Blackhawks ripped apart a 1-1 game and blitzed the Jets for three goals in 4:55 on their way to a 5-1 win.
Chicago (9-2-3) has won three consecutive games. Winnipeg (5-8-2) has lost three in a row and has one win in its past seven.
Toews was scoreless playing his first NHL regular-season game in Winnipeg before a large group of family and friends among the crowd of 15,004 at MTS Centre.
"It's a great building," Toews said after playing a 15-minute drive from where he spent his childhood. "The fans are really excited and bring a lot of energy to the game. I was definitely looking forward to the game coming in, but once the puck dropped, it was back to business. It's fun to see what it's all about and be back in Winnipeg."
Niklas Hjalmarsson scored his first goal of the season for Chicago to counter one by Winnipeg's Tobias Enstrom in the first period. Second-period goals from Brandon Bollig, Patrick Sharp and Nick Leddy chased Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec, and Ben Smith scored midway through the third.
"We had a good start to that second period," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "[In the] first period, we were lucky to be even there. [Crawford] kept us in the game, and then we got better as the game went on.
"But certainly we like some production across the board," Quenneville continued, "and we've been getting it the [past] three games, more representative of how we were last year and the offense that we do have on our team."
Al Montoya finished in relief of Pavelec, whom the Jets pulled from a game for the first time since last season, a 6-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on March 22. Pavelec stopped 10 of 14 Chicago shots; Montoya turned aside 10 of 11. Patrick Kane had a third-period penalty shot he failed to convert against Montoya.
"I think you could see some frustration in the way that we managed that game," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "I think that in a matter of couple of minutes, the game changed drastically, and certainly when that happens there's a lot of emotion that comes into yourself that is not good emotion, and that is what starts to get to you and is tough."
Chicago owned the League's fifth-best offense, producing 3.31 goals per game, and the Blackhawks exposed a thin Jets defense in the second period.
Winnipeg faced Chicago without Paul Postma, Mark Stuart and Jacob Trouba (all injured). The Jets recalled Ben Chiarot and Julian Melchiori from the American Hockey League earlier in the week and claimed Los Angeles Kings defenseman Keaton Ellerby off waivers three hours before the game. Ellerby did not arrive in time, but Chiarot, a third-year pro, made his NHL debut and played 10:47.
Slow starts have hampered the Jets this season, but Enstrom put them up 1-0 on their third shot. Enstrom unleashed a long, skipping shot from the left point that clipped a stick in front of the Chicago net and snuck past Crawford at 5:08. Enstrom's goal was the fourth time in 15 games the Jets scored first.
The Jets' penalty kill survived a 21-second 5-on-3 halfway through the first period, but Hjalmarsson directed a heavy shot from the left point that beat Pavelec low at 9:58, one second after Winnipeg killed off the power play in full.
Chicago took a 2-1 lead 54 seconds into the second period when Bollig and Kruger headed a 2-on-1 rush after Winnipeg defenseman Adam Pardy's ill-timed pinch. Bollig cut into the left circle before beating Pavelec with a low shot.
"That's our game," Crawford said. "Play [well] defensively, and that leads to our attack."
Sharp built a two-goal lead 1:47 later when Marian Hossa's long outlet pass reached him, sending him on a breakaway he converted with a move around Pavelec for his third of the season. Leddy scored at 5:49, taking a puck that trickled out to the top of the left circle and tearing a shot through a screen that eluded Pavelec and ended the goaltender's afternoon.
"I'm frustrated," Pavelec said. "They showed us how to play. It's a really good team. We played a really good first period, and then we slowed down and couldn't catch them. The last two periods were just embarrassing.
"Everybody expects the goalie to make the saves," Pavelec continued, "and I wasn't able to make those saves."
Smith made the score 5-1 with 10:47 left, using a shot from the left boards that trickled through Montoya's pads.
"I'm not going to sit here and fault Pavelec," Noel said. "He has made some huge saves for us and kept us in games. Before it gets to him, there are sometimes breakdowns elsewhere.
"We made mistakes before it got to our goalies," Noel added, "so I'm not going to sit here and blame our goalies. There is no rocket-science way to play when you play a team that can hurt you."
Winnipeg forward Michael Frolik, whom the Jets acquired this summer from the Blackhawks, saw a familiar brand of hockey.
"That's how they play," Frolik said. "They have a good transition. We [gave] up three goals, and after [that], it was kind of over. We said in the room [that] we have to go after them and [not] quit, but they didn't give up much."
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