For the first time since 1990-91, the Chicago Blackhawks are the NHL's best regular-season team.
The Blackhawks added the second Presidents' Trophy in franchise history to their list of accomplishments this season when they beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 on Wednesday at Rexall Place. The victory gives the Blackhawks 75 points; the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins can't get more than 74.
"The guys should be commended on a good win tonight and a good season," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "The start of our year put us in a great spot, and the consistency has put us in this place as well. I'd like to congratulate the guys; they deserve what they got.
"Everybody had a hand in it. Everybody contributed. But we don't want to get too excited. We've still got some serious work to do."
Chicago, 10-1-2 in its past 13 games, is assured of the home-ice advantage for as far as it goes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin next week.
"Somebody has to be," Quenneville said when asked if his team will have a target on its back entering the postseason. "But we don't mind having home ice. We don't mind playing at United Center; it's a special place. The crowd this year has been unbelievably supportive, and we'll take advantage of it if need be."
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane had first-period goals for the Blackhawks (35-6-5), who bounced back after a 3-1 road loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. Johnny Oduya added another early in the third period, and Patrick Sharp hit the empty net with 1:42 remaining.
"We wanted to be first in the League," said goaltender Corey Crawford, who stopped all 14 shots he faced after coming on late in the first period when Ray Emery left with an upper-body injury. "We're all happy about it and we want to take this momentum into the playoffs.”
Emery allowed one goal on eight shots before leaving 13:49 into the game; Quenneville said he's day-to-day. Crawford's best stop was a tremendous glove stop on Jordan Eberle 7:48 into the second period.
Sharp said the Blackhawks don't want to take it easy in their final two games, at home against the Calgary Flames on Friday and at the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
"We don't want to take our foot off the gas," he said. "We learned last year -- we lost nine games in a row and things can snowball the other way. We want to ride this momentum right through the playoffs."
It was the third loss -- all at home -- in four days for the Oilers (17-22-7). Edmonton has dropped nine of 10 since an 8-2 victory against the Calgary Flames on April 3. The Oilers have scored 13 goals in those 10 games.
The Blackhawks jumped in front 3:58 after the opening faceoff when Toews came in on an odd-man rush and wristed a shot from the top of the right circle that beat Devan Dubnyk for his 22nd of the season.
That lead lasted just 52 seconds. Nail Yakupov, the first player taken in the 2012 NHL Draft, tied it at 4:50 when he took the rebound of Marc Fistric's missed shot off the end boards and hammered it past Emery from the left circle for his 12th of the season.
"We had too many turnovers and too many power plays that we didn't score on," Yakupov said. "We lost, so my goal doesn't matter. We're making too many mistakes right now."
Kane put the Blackhawks ahead to stay at 8:11. Michal Handzus picked up the puck at his own blue line after a turnover and sprung Kane on a breakaway. Kane raced in and slid a shot between Dubnyk's legs for his 22nd of the season.
The Blackhawks limited Edmonton to just two shots in the second period, but Crawford made the best stop of the night on the first one when he used his glove to rob Eberle from 15 feet.
"He was real patient," Crawford said. "I thought he might give it across, but he held it there and I was able to make a great read and get my glove up quick enough."
Oduya provided some insurance at 4:36 of the third period when he took a slick pass from Kane and beat Dubnyk with a wrister from the lower left circle for his third goal of the season.
Drew LeBlanc, the Hobey Baker Award winner as the top player in U.S. college hockey, made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks. He played 12:12 and had three shots on goal, including two excellent chances during the third period.
"He got better every shift," Quenneville said. "In the third period he had some high-quality stuff that didn't go in, but he makes plays and I think he did very well."
Material from team and national media was used in this report.
|Jonathan Toews (22) ASST: Brandon Saad (16), Marian Hossa (13)|
1 - 0 CHI
|Nail Yakupov (12) ASST: Mark Fistric (4), Shawn Horcoff (5)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Patrick Kane (22) ASST: Michal Handzus (4), Michal Rozsival (12)|
2 - 1 CHI
|Johnny Oduya (3) ASST: Patrick Kane (31), Michal Handzus (5)|
3 - 1 CHI
|EN - Patrick Sharp (6) ASST: Patrick Kane (32), Michal Handzus (6)|
4 - 1 CHI
|Jonathan Toews Tripping against Jeff Petry|
|Justin Schultz Hooking against Patrick Sharp|
|Mark Fistric Elbowing against Andrew Shaw|
|Viktor Stalberg Tripping against Anton Lander|
|Michal Rozsival Cross checking against Ryan Smyth|
|Brandon Saad Tripping against Mike Brown|