A recurring theme this season has been the Blackhawks' inability to win a faceoff.
The topic stayed the same Tuesday but took a different tone as the Hawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 before a crowd of 10,203 at the United Center.
The winning goal came with just seven seconds on the clock and came off a clean faceoff victory by Alex Zhamnov, who beat one of the best faceoff men in the league in Columbus' Mike Sillinger.
Igor Korolev, who played his best game of the season, got the puck back to Alexander Karpovtsev, who sent a shot on goal that Tyler Arnason deflected for his third goal of the season.
"It just hit me," said Arnason, who had a goal waved off earlier in the game when Kyle Calder was called for goaltender interference. "I felt it nick my stick."
It was the second time a clean faceoff victory resulted in a goal Tuesday. Steve Sullivan won a draw in the second period that resulted in Lyle Odelein's second goal of the season.
"We think as a group we can get better [on faceoffs]," Sullivan said.
The Hawks won 59 percent of the faceoffs Tuesday, just the third time this season they have won more than they have lost.
Sullivan won seven of the 10 he took and Zhamnovlogging another team-high 22 minuteswon 14 of 21. The Hawks were dominant in the offensive end, winning 22 of 29.
It was a complete reversal from opening night, when Columbus won 66 percent of the faceoffs. On that night, Sillinger won 15 of 20. Tuesday he was just 4 of 12.
"It's an important part of the game," Hawks coach Brian Sutter said.
The Hawks had a rough start as Columbus took the lead when Jaroslav Spacek's shot from just inside the blueline beat Jocelyn Thibault three minutes into the game.
Columbus had a nice chance to add to the lead three minutes later when Steve Thomas was given a five-minute major penalty and a game-misconduct for ramming Rostislav Klesla into the boards from behind.
The Hawks not only killed the major, but they had three great scoring chances short-handed.
"It probably would have been tough to come back [if Columbus scored on the power play]," Sullivan said.
All Thomas could do was ride a stationary bike and watch his teammates on TV after his ejection. He said he thought Klesla turned away from him and looked down at the puck at the last second.
"Knowing that you're already a goal down and you've just caused a five-minute penalty, that's a bit unnerving to say the least," Thomas said.
With Thomas ejected, Sutter shortened his bench and basically went with three lines, juggling Ryan VandenBussche and Shawn Thornton for spot duty. Korolev moved to a wing with Arnason double-shifting at center.
The victory was the 200th for Thibault in his career. Thibault got to 200 faster than all but six other goalies in NHL history age-wise at 27 years, 9 months.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times