Blackhawks tie franchise record with 11th straight win over Canadiens


Blackhawks tie franchise record with 11th straight win over Canadiens

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.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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.

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“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.”




A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

Kirby Dach made his pro debut on Saturday, but it wasn't with the Blackhawks.

The No. 3 overall pick from this past June was activated from his injured/non-roster designation and assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League for conditioning purposes and jumped right into the lineup. He didn't appear in any NHL preseason games because he was under the league's concussion protocol during training camp.

In his season debut, Dach recorded two shots on goal and had a minus-1 rating in a 4-2 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins. He centered the fourth line with Brandon Hagel and Nick Moutrey.

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton discussed the decision to send Dach to Rockford after Saturday's game against the Winnipeg Jets, and it sounds like the organization remains committed to giving him a look at the NHL level whenever his conditioning stint is over.

"He hasn't played in a long time," Colliton said. "Missed training camp, missed the exhibition season. We think he can help us so we're trying to set him up, give him the best opportunity so when he does get the chance here he'll be as ready as he can be. It's a good league down there and a chance for him to get his feet wet against men. And I think he's been getting better and better in his practice time here with us. So I'm excited. Hopefully, he can gain confidence down there and then be ready to help us."

Because he's not eligible to play in the AHL full-time this season due to Canadian Hockey League rules, Dach's conditioning stint in Rockford can last up to 14 days, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, before the Blackhawks are forced to either recall him or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League.

Rockford has four more games over that span, with its next one on Monday against the Laval Rocket at BMO Harris Bank Center.

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on Saturday:

1. Squandering a two-goal lead

For the second straight home game, the Blackhawks jumped out in front and even built an early cushion by scoring the first two goals in the opening frame. But they allowed the Jets to score three unanswered, including the overtime winner by Mark Scheifele, to remain winless on the season (0-2-1).

"We did a good job in the first and they took it to us in the second," said Brandon Saad, who scored a shorthanded goal. "Lehnny made some big saves and the third was kind of even. But we definitely had chances to close it out and we didn’t. At least we got a point and we have to move on from it."

2. Another lackluster second period

If there's one thing you can point to that's been a trend in all three games so far, it's that the Blackhawks have been lackluster in the second period. And it's difficult to pinpoint why.

In the middle frame, the Blackhawks have 10 scoring chances for and 35 against at 5-on-5, two high-danger chances for and 10 against at 5-on-5 and a minus-19 shot differential, according to Natural Stat Trick. That's an area of the game they're trying to clean up and has been the downfall to their attempts of putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"Obviously it's been three in a row where we haven't been very good in the second period and to me that's where you show how good you are," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "The best teams, they dominate the second period, so it's a point of emphasis for us. We'd like to control the tempo of the game and control the territory, out-chance the other team. That's where you show how good you are, so we're not close to where we want to be in that area."

3. Robin Lehner's debut

After going two weeks without game action, the Blackhawks gave the nod to Lehner, who went into Saturday with a 4-0-0 record, 2.76 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in five career games against the Jets. He took the loss, but certainly did his part to deserve a win.

In regulation, Lehner stopped 30 of 32 shots for a save percentage of .938. The first goal was on the power play, the second came at 5-on-5 when Andrew Copp found himself all alone in front and the third was in overtime during 3-on-3 action. His 5-on-5 save percentage was .962, which will definitely work.

"I felt good," Lehner said. "I felt like I saw the puck well. I thought rebound control was good. Again, the first one is unfortunate, it squeaks through. But I was where I wanted to be in position and somehow it goes in. Gotta try to clean that up. And the third goal, it just dove on me. He missed his shot. It’s unfortunate. But I thought I made some good saves and felt comfortable. We got a point, which is something, but should’ve got a win today."

4. Penalty kill shows improvement

The Blackhawks gave up a power-play goal for the third consecutive contest, but this was close to being a perfect night for the penalty kill. They went 3-for-4 and gave up only four shots on goal in the 7:38 of shorthanded time.

On the first Jets power play of the night, Saad scored a shorthanded goal for his first of the season and the Blackhawks later generated two more scoring chances before the two minutes expired.

The power-play goal against should've been stopped by Lehner but he did everything right and had the shortside sealed, the puck just found a mini hole. The Blackhawks responded with a big kill and had one late in the third period also. No complaints.

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