CHICAGO - Artemi Panarin had two goals, Corey Crawford made 32 saves and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 on Friday night to reach the cusp of clinching the Central Division.
Panarin scored in the opening minute, then added an empty-netter with 44 seconds left for his 28th goal of the season. Marian Hossa also scored in the first period for Chicago, and Patrick Kane assisted on all three goals as Chicago extended its division lead to nine points over idle Minnesota.
The Wild have five games remaining and the Blackhawks have four.
Nick Foligno scored his 25th goal to end an eight-game drought and Sergei Bobrovksy made 21 saves, but the Blue Jackets lost for the second time in two nights.
Panarin and Hossa put Chicago ahead 2-1 after 20 minutes in a matchup of the teams with the NHL's second- and third-best records. The Blackhawks and Crawford played a smart, tidy game to deny the Blue Jackets a chance to gain ground on first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division.
Bobrovsky got his first regulation loss since Feb. 19 against Nashville. He had been 10-0-2 during the run and entered leading the NHL in wins, goals-against average and save percentage.
Coming off a 2-1 overtime loss at Carolina on Thursday night - with backup Joonas Korpisalo in net - the Blue Jackets didn't arrive at the their hotel in Chicago until about 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
The team left Raleigh-Durham International Airport on a chartered jet shortly after Thursday's game, but the plane was forced to turn back about 30 minutes into the flight because of a faulty generator. The Blue Jackets returned to the hotel they stayed at on Wednesday, then flew to Chicago on Friday.
Chicago took advantage by striking fast.
Panarin got a power-play goal 32 seconds in and four seconds after Columbus' Brandon Dubinksy was sent off for cross-checking Niklas Hjalmarsson.
After Jonathan Toews won a faceoff in the Blue Jackets' zone, Kane slipped the puck to Panarin in the slot. He beat Bobrovsky just over his glove with a quick shot.
The teams exchanged goals 22 seconds apart during a 4-on-4 late in the first period.
Foligno tied it 1-all with 2:45 left in the first from the left side of the crease. After taking Sam Gagner's pass from behind the net, he slipped the puck under Crawford.
Finishing a 2-on-1 break with Kane, Hossa's 26th goal put Chicago back in front 2-1 moments later. The 38-year-old faked Bobrovsky to the ice, cut across the crease and scored on a slick backhander.
Both goalies made a handful of alert saves in the scoreless second period, but neither was heavily tested.
Bobrovksy denied Hossa on a prime chance early in the third, then Crawford was sharp when needed - including on Gagner's deflection at 9:30 during a Columbus power play.
NOTES: Blackhawks C Artem Anisimov missed his ninth game (lower body), but coach Joel Quenneville said he hoped the 22-goal scorer would return for the playoffs. ... C Vinnie Hinostroza, recalled from Rockford of the AHL on Thursday, was among Chicago's scratches. ... Columbus coach John Tortorella said the team's flight turnaround was ''very nerve-wracking,'' but otherwise joked about the incident before Friday's game and hoped it might rally his team. ''When you hear the announcement: `It's an emergency, but we're OK,' where do you go with that?'' Tortorella said.
Blue Jackets: Host league-leading Washington on Sunday in a showdown of the top teams in the rugged Metropolitan.
Blackhawks: Host Boston on Sunday in their final regular-season home game. Chicago closes out the schedule with three road contests.
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