Stalberg's milestone caps a strange win

CHICAGO -- A strange night at the United Center on Tuesday concluded with a bang when Viktor Stalberg won a race and puck battle to score an empty-net goal, securing his first career hat trick in the Blackhawks 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. It helped snap a four-game losing skid.

But first the Hawks had to overcome two instigator penalties and a scare from Jonathan Toews after he took a puck to the helmet on a deflected shot by Duncan Keith.

The Hawks killed off the penalties, Toews got stitched up and Stalberg went to work.

“It was fun to get that,” he said afterwards. “I’ve had a couple chances before to get that and it hasn’t happened, a great feeling obviously.”

Stalberg’s empty-net goal was relatively easy for obvious reasons, but his first two tallies were skilled plays. He went to the net where Patrick Kane found him for a goalmouth score then he drew a delayed penalty but held onto the puck until the extra attacker arrived. The ensuing chaos created a rebound chance and he buried it. Seven of his 12 goals this season have come against Columbus.

“I wish it was like that every night, right? Hopefully I can keep it going against some other teams,” Stalberg said. “Playing them it seems like I’m getting a lot of chances.”

It has been well documented that Stalberg is turning a corner in his career. On Tuesday he tied his career high in goals set last season in 77 games. On Tuesday, he played in his 40th game this season.

“Speed is noticeable,” Joel Quennville said. “He drove the net his first one there. It was a big goal at the time and great shot on the second one, finished the third. I think his game is rounding into shape as he’s progressed here. Seems to be getting better in his all around game.”

Maybe the best indication of Stalberg’s maturity is his relationship with mega-stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He’s played off and on with the dynamic duo for the past two seasons. At first, he was timid both on the ice and off but things have changed for the budding all-around player.

“He was the one telling us ‘let’s stay with it, let’s keep going, we’re going to get one’ and sure enough he popped that first one,” Toews said. “As a line that was a big goal for the three of us. We’ve been working hard for it and finally Staly [Stalberg] was in the right spot there. Vik didn’t stop at just one, he kept going. It was nice to see him pot that third one. It’s been a while since we’ve seen hats rain down at the UC. It was a nice thing to see.”

Stalberg gets three and the Hawks get two -- as in points. It had been a while.