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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Despite persistent trade rumors involving several frontliners, the Chicago Blackhawks played one of their best road games of the season.
Patrick Sharp scored on a third-period breakaway to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
Several Chicago players have been rumored to be on the block heading into Thursday's trade deadline. But the Blackhawks put all the idle talk aside to play a solid team game.
"We just played the way we wanted to for three periods," said Sharp, adding to his solid season since he was acquired in a deal in December. "We got away from it early and were trading chances with them and were playing sloppy defensively. As the game went on, we tightened it up. We won the battles we needed to."
Radim Vrbata had a first-period goal for the Blackhawks, and Matthew Barnaby added an empty-netter. Craig Anderson had 27 saves for Chicago, which had lost three in a row to the Blue Jackets this season.
"We really didn't see their transition game other than the first part of the first period," Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney said. "Their forwards are so skilled that they can really turn something very average into something that's very lucrative in an awful hurry. We managed the puck pretty well tonight."
Manny Malhotra scored his first goal for Columbus since Nov. 26. The Blue Jackets have scored only five goals in four games since the Olympic break.
"We had tons of chances," Columbus winger Rick Nash said. "When you're hot you're hot, and when you're not, you're not."
Sharp made it 2-1 at 6:01 of the final period. Kyle Calder chipped the puck out to the left wing where Sharp was streaking all alone. He sped to the right corner of the goal and lifted the puck over goalie Marc Denis for his eighth goal of the season.
"I seem to get a breakaway every game over the last four games," Sharp said. "I haven't been too successful with them, so I was just wanting to make sure that I got a good shot on net."
After a scoreless opening period, the Blue Jackets finally scored midway through the second period. Malhotra took a pass from Jason Chimera, with Chimera then providing traffic in front of the net. Malhotra's shot from just inside the right point eluded Anderson for his third goal of the season.
Columbus had two good chances to add to the lead. David Vyborny had a short-handed breakaway but Anderson stuffed his backhand try. Nash then swooped up the left wing on a rush and crashed the net but was stopped.
Vrbata tied it with 2:06 left in the period. Tyler Arnason skated in for a shot that Denis stopped, the long rebound caroming off the skate of defenseman Ron Hainsey and sliding to Vrbata for a hard one-timer at the right dot. It was Vrbata's ninth goal.
"We just said we wanted to stay focused the whole game, and that's what we did," Vrbata said.
Columbus had an excellent chance to tie the game with a minute and a half left. Nikolai Zherdev left a drop pass for Sergei Fedorov, who blistered a shot from the boards that stunned Anderson. The puck inched between Anderson's leg pads while he searched for it, but he was able to recover and smother it.
"I felt pretty good," Anderson said. "There were two shots I had trouble with - Malhotra's goal, which I didn't see at all, and Fedorov late in the third. It went through some legs and I just got lucky. It hit my blocker, went off my leg and landed behind me. Other than that, I pretty much saw everything."
Barnaby's empty-netter was his seventh of the season.
Notes: The Blue Jackets fell to 15-14-0 at home this season, and 11-6-0 since Dec. 8. They had won nine of their previous 11 at Nationwide Arena. ... The victory was only the ninth road win of the season for the Blackhawks, tied for the fewest in the Western Conference. ... Columbus is 20-8-1 when scoring three goals and 4-28-1 when scoring fewer than three.