Winning games in bunches: you need a lot to go right to go on a substantial winning streak.
For the Blackhawks right now, just about everything is going right.
Jonathan Toews had two goals and an assist and Marian Hossa had a goal and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-2 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks have now won 11 consecutive games to tie the franchise-best streak they set Feb. 17-March 6, 2013.
The Blackhawks now lead the Central Division with 66 points, three ahead of second-place Dallas and seven ahead of third-place St. Louis.
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Corey Crawford stopped 27 of 29 shots for his eighth consecutive victory. That ties his career best, previously set from Feb. 20-March 5, 2011. Richard Panik scored his first goal for the Blackhawks and Patrick Kane scored his 29th of the season. Kane is just one shy of tying his career high in goals, set during the 2009-10 season.
The Blackhawks started this winning streak with two high-scoring victories. They’re now settling into a pattern of scoring plenty – and it’s coming from everyone and not just the second line – but allowing very little defensively. The Blackhawks have given up four goals in their last three games.
“I think the balance is the one thing that sticks out, consistency and getting contributions across the board. We’re solid in net, solid on the blue line and much more predictable up front,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Every night, someone else could score. Richard’s score tonight started it. The power play comes up with the big goal. Every night’s a little different but we’re playing responsible, playing the score, playing the time and we’ve got some momentum.”
The Blackhawks have also scored first in a lot of these games. That was true again on Sunday when Panik gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead just 2:40 into the game. Erik Gustafsson, who missed the last two games with a right-knee injury, had the great pass to Panik for his eighth assist of theseason. Lars Eller tied it for Montreal but Toews’ two goals in the second period gave the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
“We’ve improved how we play defensively; everybody’s committed,” Hossa said. “Everyone from the core knows how to win the defensive game from the championships and we have a lot of offense. The second line carried us offensively most of the year but it’s nice that other lines are scoring too, now, and that definitely helps.”
That offense continued in the third period. Montreal’s Max Pacioretty scored a power-play goal to get the Canadiens within one but Kane scored just 71 seconds later to restore the Blackhawks’ two-goal lead. Hossa, who got a stick on Duncan Keith’s long pass with 24 seconds remaining in regulation, got the empty-net goal.
Some of the Blackhawks felt it was just a matter of time before things started clicking with lines and with their game overall. A lot has to go right to go on a lengthy winning streak. Right now, a lot is.
“It’s nice; I mean, it's fun. We need to recognize that when things are clicking, you need to keep pushing and keep building your game and not get too comfortable, and I think we're doing a good job of that right now,” Toews said. “You look back to the last half dozen games, there hasn't been a whole lot of signs of satisfaction with our effort. So we're having fun and we're riding it out right now. I don't think we're playing out of our minds and getting too overconfident. We're just working hard and things are going our way.”