On Friday night, the Chicago Blackhawks came to Denver to play the Colorado Avalanche in what was the second straight battle in a home-to-home series between the two teams. In the first game on Wednesday, the Blackhawks were able to win with a late goal. The win extended the Blackhawks’ point streak to start the season to 24 consecutive games with a point, which is the NHL record to start a season. The victory also gave the Blackhawks 30 straight games with a point dating back to last season, just five shy of the multi-season record of 35 straight games that was set by the 1979-1980 Philadelphia Fliers. The Blackhawks’ victory on Wednesday also gave them a franchise-best 11-game winning streak.
However, Friday night offered the Avalanche a chance for an immediate rematch and granted them another chance to try to break the Blackhawks’ historic streak. In front of a soldout and energetic Pepsi Center crowd, the Avs unleashed an offensive explosion in the 2nd period that enabled them to score four unanswered goals and to defeat the blazing hot Blackhawks 6-2. The win represented a significant accomplishment in which the Avs became a part of NHL history by being the first team to beat the 2013 Blackhawks in regulation and the one team that was able to officially end the Blackhawks’ record-setting point streak.
“Chicago deserves a lot of credit for what they just did,” said Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco after the win. “That’s quite a run they just went on. It’s extremely impressive and so that’s a great hockey team over there.”
“It’s pretty special,” said Avalanche center Matt Duchene about ending the Blackhawks’ streak. “It’s a good feeling because we have a lot of respect for them. It’s also special to do it in our own city and in front of our fans. It was a special run they had and it was pretty cool to end it.”
The Blackhawks struck first to start the game. Just six minutes into the 1st period, the Blackhawks intercepted a pass just outside of the Avs zone. With a sudden 3 on 2 attack, the Hawks passed it back-and-forth through the zone until superstar Blackhawk center Jonathan Toews wristed a laserbeam passed Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, who was caught out of position on the play. The goal gave the Hawks an early 1-0 lead.
The Avalanche responded well to the quick deficit by striking back with a wave of offensive pressure of their own, which eventually led to a hooking penalty on Blackhawk forward Bryan Bickell. During the power play attack, the Avs’ PA Parenteau made a good play at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone. He then passed it to Duchene who, from the point, delivered a centering pass that Avs forward Paul Stastny was able to deflect into the net. The teams went to the locker room for the first intermission tied at 1 apiece.
However, as soon as the enthusiastic Friday night crowd took their seats to start the 2nd period, the Avalanche erupted with an incredible offensive explosion that brought the fans right back to their feet and kept them there for the remainder of the period.
The explosion was ignited by the Avs unleashing a surge of offensive pressure into the Blackhawks zone. Avalanche Erik Johnson then delivered a sharp centering pass, and Duchene promptly back-handed the puck into the net to give the Avs their first lead of the night.
The Avs then capitalized on the roaring crowd and on their surging momentum by scoring another goal just 33 seconds later, as Avalanche center John Mitchell launched a rocket slapshot into the net from between the circles.
The Avs continued to completely dominate the action by generating a flurry of offensive attacks and by bringing relentless pressure into the Hawks’ zone. The incessant pressure led to a power play, and the Avs wasted no time taking advantage of the opportunity. After the ensuing face-off, Duchene passed the puck over to Avs center Ryan O’Reilly, and O’Reilly dished out a slap shot from the point that flew past Blackhawk goalie Corey Crawford and into the back of the net.
With six minutes left in the period, a loose puck was lingering at the boards directly behind the Blackhawks’ goalpost. Duchene displayed his exceptional speed by beating the Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith to the loose puck. Duchene then quickly passed the puck to the front of the net, where a perfectly-positioned Jamie Mcginn wristed the puck into the net.
“I think I would have had a breakaway had it not been for a bad bounce of the puck when it hit the ice,” said Duchene of the assist. “I actually thought I had [Keith] beat by a lot but then I took a look back and he almost snuck in and got it. But I was just able to get my stick out in time and Jamie came in, was wide open and made an outstanding shot.”
After a dominating 2nd period, the raucous Avalanche faithful erupted into a deafening frenzy and gave their Avalanche a standing ovation as the Avs went to the lockerroom with a comfortable 5-1 lead.
The Blackhawks and the Avs traded goals in the third period with goals scored by Bickell and Parenteau, respectively. However, solid defense and excellent goaltending enabled the Avs to protect their lead and to officially end the Blackhawks’ historic streak with a 6-2 victory.
“That was a special win,” said Duchene, who tallied four points on the night. “To end the streak in front of our fans, to do it against that team, and to stop them is special. We wanna ride this feeling as long as possible.”
“24 games without a loss in regulation is very impressive,” said Avalanche captain Paul Stastny. “Hat’s off to them. The last two months have been very special. It’s great for the league, they got a lot of press from it and they deserve it. I think it’s a streak that will go untouched for a long, long time.”
Although the loss marked the end of a historic streak for the Blackhawks, the Hawks can look back with pride for achieving the remarkable accomplishment of earning points in an NHL -record 24 consecutive games to start a season.
“We should be very proud of what we accomplished,” said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. “It’s a great accomplishment from start to finish; we found different ways to win night in and night out, and everyone contributed to something that hadn’t been done. It’s a great feather in our cap, but let’s move forward here and try to get better. Certainly it was a lot of fun up to today.”
“I’m very proud of our team for what we accomplished in the first 24 games this year,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathon Toews. “It was a great start, but there’s still 25 games left in the season, and so there’s still a long ways to go. One thing we can take from it all is the confidence that winning a lot of games gives you. We won a lot of games every which way, and we’ll just carry that with us as we go forward. We showed that we can fight, we showed a lot of persistence and we showed a lot of resilience during that streak.”
For the Avs, the 2nd period was one of the most impressive stretches of hockey that the Avs have played all season, as they acquired a dramatic burst of momentum and confidence that enabled them to dominate the ice and to score four unanswered goals.
“In the second period I thought we started to set the tone as far as how we wanted to play,” said Coach Sacco. “It seemed like we were rolling one line after another line out there. We were coming in waves, our shifts were short and we capitalized on our opportunities. The guys just started to feel the momentum swing and fed off of that.”
Another impressive aspect of the Avalanche victory was that they seemed to thrive on the fact that the packed stadium was bursting with excitement.
“Leading into tonight’s game,” said Coach Sacco, “there certainly was some good energy in the building, and I thought our team responded well to the energy in the building. Even though we went down one, I thought that we stuck with it in the 1st period; we battled, we played hard and we got the next goal.”
The most important aspect of the Avalanche victory is that the significant achievement of ending the Blackhawks’ historic streak can provide them with the momentum that they need to win some games and to get into the playoff hunt.
“We need wins,” said Coach Sacco. “We need to win games and we need to accumulate points right now. I think this is something that will springboard our team moving forward here.”
“We definitely need to build on this win,” said Duchene. “It’s a great accomplishment and a great confidence-booster that shows us that we can play with anybody in this league. That’s one of the best teams in the whole National Hockey League. We’re gonna enjoy the win tonight and then tomorrow’s back to work. We got more games here at home and we wanna sweep this home-stand, and so that’s the next step.”
The Avs will try to build a winning streak of their own on Sunday night, when they will face off against the San Jose Sharks in Denver.