COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Chicago Blackhawks unloaded on the Columbus Blue Jackets and then coach Ken Hitchcock took his turn.
Dustin Byfuglien scored two goals and the Blackhawks rolled to a big early lead to beat the Blue Jackets 7-2 on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks led 4-0 after one period, inciting a crowd of almost 15,000 at Nationwide Arena to loudly boo the home team as they left the ice at the first intermission. Hitchcock felt their pain.
"These are not rookie mistakes. These are fundamental errors made by good players," a visibly upset Hitchcock said. "Hockey's a game of emotion and intensity and when the other team has it and you don't, you're not going to have very many successful nights. That's what happened tonight."
Columbus came into the game just four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"This will take us one way or the other," Hitchcock said. "We're either going to go up and grab this thing, or we're going to go (making a sound like a balloon rapidly deflating)."
Robert Lang, Brent Seabrook, James Wisniewski and Martin Havlat each had a goal and an assist and Brent Sopel had two assists for the Blackhawks, who scored on three of their first four shots. Patrick Kane also scored.
"It was a good team effort all around," Byfuglien said. "We came right out of the gates hungry and ready to go. We needed a win to turn things around. Everything's looking positive right now."
That can't be said for the Blue Jackets, who lost their fifth in a row at home.
Fredrik Modin, activated off the injured list earlier in the day, and Dick Tarnstrom had the goals for Columbus, which has lost seven of eight.
Chicago coach Denis Savard had ripped his team after it was shut out 1-0 by Pascal Leclaire in the teams' previous meeting on Jan. 24. Referring to the team mascot, he said that the Blackhawks needed to "commit to the Indian."
The Blackhawks were certainly committed on this night.
Coming in 27th in the NHL on the power play, they scored with a man advantage just 3:55 in. Wisniewski cranked up for a slap shot from the top of the left circle then spotted Kane streaking toward the net and passed to him for an easy tap-in.
With the teams each down a man, Columbus' Michael Peca tried a shot from the blue line that Seabrook blocked. Seabrook beat Peca to the puck and then sailed in on Fredrik Norrena to net a backhand for his seventh of the season.
There were a smattering of boos - which grew louder shortly after when Byfuglien scored his first. He stole the puck from Blue Jackets rookie defenceman Kris Russell then avoided Norrena's poke check to score into an empty net.
Hitchcock pulled Norrena and replaced him with Leclaire, who had the flu and was expected to watch the action.
Moments later, Leclaire was victimized when Byfuglien was at the doorstep for a jam shot of Sopel's shot from the point.
"It's been a while since I was able to play all four lines and all four lines competed," Savard said. "The six defencemen competed and we got good goaltending again by (Nikolai Khabibulin)."
Byfuglien was originally credited with a power-play goal in the final minute before officials ruled that Modin had inadvertently knocked the puck into the net and awarded the goal to Lang because he was the last Chicago player to touch it.
"We know how good we can be," Seabrook said. "Columbus is a great team; they're so great defensively. They don't give up much. To have sort of an outbreak like that gives us confidence that we can score against any team in the league."
Notes: Columbus also sent D Marc Methot to Syracuse of the AHL. ... Chicago was playing its sixth game in a seven-game road trip. The Blackhawks are at Nashville on Thursday night. ... Sharp had his four-game goals streak ended.