- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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How it happened: After a sleepy opening 20 minutes, the Hawks took control of the game in the second period with a goal by Patrick Sharp and two more by Viktor Stalberg. Columbus lived up to its “defense last” reputation, allowing the Hawks to get into good scoring areas with and without the puck. And no one did that better than Stalberg. He followed up his own shot to score his first goal and then moved into the face-off circle to find an opening where Dave Bolland found him for his second. Sharp’s goal was his 19th of the season, one off the team lead. Marian Hossa added a third-period goal. The Hawks buckled down on defense after some sloppy play in the first period, while Corey Crawford looked confident for a second straight game, making good stops in all three periods. The Hawks got a little lazy early in the third, giving up a goal to former Hawk James Wisniewski, preventing their first shutout of the season.
What it means: The Hawks continue to roll at home with a season-high fifth-consecutive victory at the United Center. It wasn’t a dominant performance for 60 minutes -- Columbus outshot the Hawks 38-22, but that’s been part of the Hawks’ theme this season against lesser opponents. It was still very good for the final 40 minutes. Crawford needed to play well late in the first period when the Hawks were badly outshot and out-chanced and he did, recording his second straight win. His struggles of November are starting to become a distant memory and the Hawks played well in front of him for the final two periods. Sharp and Hossa picked up where they left off before the holiday break as did Stalberg, who continues to put up points despite lack of power-play time. If he hasn’t turned the corner in his career before this stretch then perhaps he’s doing it now. The Hawks became the first team to reach 50 points in the standings this season and improved to 23-9-4.
What’s next: The Hawks continue their homestand with a matchup with the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday after a practice day on Tuesday.