NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The mood in the Blackhawks’ locker room didn’t seem any more euphoric than it’s been in any of their previous victories.
Still, there’s no doubt this team realizes it’s doing something pretty special right now – like franchise-record special.
Corey Crawford stopped 38 of 39 shots and the Blackhawks won their 12th consecutive victory when they beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 on Tuesday night. It was a record night for some individuals as well as the team. Crawford won his career-best ninth consecutive start and Patrick Kane scored his 30th goal, tying a career high – in game No. 49 – he set during the 2009-10 season.
The Blackhawks’ winning streak is a franchise best, eclipsing their previous mark of 11 first set during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. It’s been a heck of a ride, one that has the Blackhawks sitting atop the Central Division with 68 points.
“It’s a great run,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve been starting quick and today we had to weather a good start by them. I thought we were patient with our team game, scoring first and had a couple nice plays on our goals. We defend well in the third, had the lead a lot in this stretch here, which really helped our team game.”
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Richard Panik scored his second goal in as many games. Artemi Panarin had two assists. Andrew Desjardins added an empty-net goal.
Crawford was stellar once again on Tuesday. The Blackhawks had a 3-1 lead in the third but the Predators pushed and fired 16 shots, all of which Crawford stopped.
“Yeah he’s been amazing. It seems like he has a whole new focus in the net,” Kane said of Crawford this season. “Some nights he looks unbeatable; it’s pretty fun to watch. He’s very underrated as goalies go but we feel we have the best-kept secret with him.”
Not so secret is what the Blackhawks’ second line has done all season and continued to do on Tuesday. Artem Anisimov gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead with 21.2 seconds remaining in the first period. And just one minute after the Predators’ Ryan Ellis cut the Blackhawks’ lead to 2-1 in the second, Kane took a Panarin pass for a backhand breakaway and a 3-1 edge.
“I think maybe he saw me before he got the puck there, I was just taking off after the defenseman shot it and he put it right on my stick,” Kane said. “I had to make the move on the breakaway and it was a nice pass by him.”
The second line has been clicking since the start of this season. The Blackhawks as a whole have been doing so since the end of December. It’s led to some special marks, for individual players and the team.
“You can see the chemistry through all the lines, all the [defensive] pairings. We’re just playing the game right, playing with speed and skill and not making too many mistakes, not taking too many penalties,” Crawford said. “I just think everything about our game is working right now.”