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Blackhawks avenge streak-busting loss to Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER – Maintaining control of the top spot in the NHL was of more concern to the Chicago Blackhawks than avenging their shocking loss to the Colorado Avalanche on March 8.

Still, the Blackhawks were plenty pleased to exit the Pepsi Center on Monday night with a 5-2 win in the building where the Avalanche handed them a 6-2 loss that ended their season-opening 24-game streak of earning at least one point.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had a goal and two assists, and goalie Ray Emery made 17 saves to stretch his league record for consecutive wins without a loss to start a season to 11.

The Blackhawks have won the first three games of a four-game road trip that ends Wednesday in Anaheim against the Pacific Division-leading Ducks.

The only downer: right wing Marian Hossa didn't play in the final two periods because of what Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville called an upper-body injury. Hossa left after a first-period hit by Avalanche defenseman Ryan O'Byrne.

"He's day to day. We'll know more [Tuesday]," said Quenneville, who double-shifted Kane in Hossa's absence. "[Kane] didn't mind. I asked him a couple times when it looked like he might drop, but he went. A couple times he even laughed at me. He likes to go and he had the puck a lot. He was dangerous, very efficient."

The Blackhawks appear to be back on track after successive regulation losses to the Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers.

"You look back over the course of the year and we've had three bad periods," Quenneville said. "We've been fairly consistent in our game. We got some juice back in our team after having a couple days off after that [seven games in 11 days stretch]. I thought we had good jump the last couple games."

The same can't be said for the Avalanche, who have been outscored 20-9 during a season-worst four-game losing streak and remain in last place in the Western Conference.

"It's frustrating, but we're in this together," said captain Gabriel Landeskog, who scored a shorthanded goal in the final minute of the first period to trim the Blackhawks' lead to 2-1. "We win together and we lose together. We have to dig ourselves out of this. It has to come from within. We have to be a better team at the start, especially at home. It sounds like a broken record, but [poor starts] are kind of killing us right now."

The Blackhawks bolted to a quick 2-0 lead in the opening period on goals by Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw that came 57 seconds apart on consecutive shots against Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov.

Hayes, playing in his third game of the season, was in the slot when he converted a pass from Kane at 3:47 on the Blackhawks' second shot of the game. Kane intercepted Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda's behind-the-back pass in the right corner to set up the goal.

Shaw scored on a 2-on-1 rush with Viktor Stalberg at 4:44 with Greg Zanon the lone Avalanche defenseman back.

Landeskog's goal gave the Avalanche some hope, but it was as close as they would come because Kane took over the game in the second period with a goal and an assist.

Kane, who has four goals and six assists during a four-game point-scoring streak, scored from deep on the left side at 7:49, then fed Brent Seabrook with a cross-ice pass for a one-timer from the right circle at 14:40 to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead.

"It was a good game all around for the team," said Kane, who had four of the Blackhawks' 32 shots and was a plus-3 in 22:30 of ice time. "Especially after last game [in Denver], them ending our streak. We wanted to get a little bit of redemption and know that we can beat a team like this because the two previous games, they probably outplayed us."

Kane nearly added to his total at 1:30 of the third period when he skated down the middle on a clean breakaway. But Varlamov swatted the puck away with his glove.

Toews closed out the scoring with 3:30 remaining in the period. The Blackhawks outshot the Avalanche 10-4 over the final 20 minutes, making it easy for Emery.

"This is a good team and it's just important to play solid and give us a chance," Emery said. "It's not a situation where you have to steal games or do anything special."

Milan Hejduk scored for the Avalanche at 18:34 of the second period for the 375th goal of his NHL career, tying him for 104th place on the all-time list with Butch Goring and Trevor Linden, but he couldn't enjoy the milestone.

"One team was playing with lots of confidence, another team didn't, and it definitely showed on the ice," Hejduk said. "They outplayed us pretty much in every aspect of the game."

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