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Blackhawks' streak ends at 24 with loss to Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Streak is over.

The Chicago Blackhawks' remarkable 24-game run without a regulation loss, the best start to a season in NHL history, came to a screeching halt Friday night at the Pepsi Center, as did their franchise-record 11-game winning streak.

The Colorado Avalanche, who had one win in their previous seven games, stunned the Blackhawks with five consecutive goals -- four in the second period -- on the way to a 6-2 victory before a raucous sellout crowd of 18,007 (many clad in red Blackhawks jerseys) -- that chanted "End the streak!" in the final minutes.

The Blackhawks went 21-0-3 during the streak. Only the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens (28 games) and the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers (35 games) played more consecutive games in one season without a regulation loss.

"I talked to them after the game that they should be very proud of what they accomplished," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They found different ways to win, night in and night out, and everyone contributed to something that hadn't been done. It's a great feather in our cap, but let's move forward here and try to get better. Certainly it was a lot of fun up to today.

"(The streak) gained a lot of momentum over the last little while, and our opponents, they treated it like it was a very important game. You look at the standings and everyone has a meaningful game, but it seemed like there was added incentive as we've gone along. We welcomed the challenge."

Friday's win gave the Avalanche some measure of revenge after losing 3-2 in Chicago on Wednesday when the Blackhawks' Daniel Carcillo scored with 49.3 seconds left in regulation.

"Pretty impressive, something special," Avalanche center Paul Stastny said of the Blackhawks' streak. "It's great for the League. They got a lot of press and they deserved it. I think it's a streak that will go untouched for a long, long time. It was good to do this in front of hometown fans on a Friday night like this.

"It's funny, earlier in the year we were playing after seven or eight games and [Gabriel Landeskog] was wondering when we play these guys. I was like, ‘Don't worry, we won't get them when they're undefeated.' Little did I know. A month and a half later we were playing them and they were still undefeated."

Counting the final six games end of last season, the Blackhawks had gained at least one point in 30 consecutive games.

"It's over. We lost tonight's game," said Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who was replaced to start the third period after allowing five goals on 19 shots. "Five goals … it's hard to win when you give up that much. I didn't give the guys a chance."

Of the streak, Crawford said: "It was great. We talked about it a lot. We played so well as a team. Everyone in the lineup was playing hard every night, but it's over. We just have to worry about the next one."

The Avalanche were led by center Matt Duchene, who matched his career high for points in a game with four (one goal, three assists), while Stastny and PA Parenteau each contributed a goal and two assists.

"It's a great confidence booster," Duchene said. "It shows that we can play with anybody in this League. It's one of the best teams in the whole National Hockey League. What a special run they had. It was pretty cool to end it, that's for sure. It's pretty special."

Duchene snapped a 1-1 tie at 4:16 of the period with a shot from the slot that went past Crawford's left arm. Defenseman Erik Johnson, who missed the previous 11 games with a concussion, set up the play with a pass from the right side.

"There was a little bit of rust, but I felt good," said Johnson, who logged 19:04 in ice time and was plus-4. "It was nice to be able to chip in a little bit offensively. I thought my defensive game's been great all year and I just wanted to continue that tonight. We wanted two points first and foremost, but ending that streak is a silver lining for sure. "

The Avalanche made it 3-1 just 33 seconds later when Ryan O'Reilly slipped a centering pass to John Mitchell for a shot that beat Crawford to the stick side. It marked just the third time this season that the Blackhawks trailed by as many as two goals, prompting Quenneville to call time.

The Avalanche went on a power play six minutes later when Crawford tripped Aaron Palushaj, and they made him pay when O'Reilly scored from the right point at 10:47 -- four seconds into the man advantage.

Jamie McGinn increased the lead to 5-1 at 13:58 off a setup from Duchene, who beat Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith to the puck along the end boards and passed in front.

"The game was far from over," Duchene said. "That's a team that can come back. We sat back a little playing the last 10 minutes, but it's probably human nature. We played a pretty solid hockey game tonight."

The Blackhawks, who were 3-0-1 when trailing after two periods, got a goal from Bryan Bickell at 8:53 of the third period, which Parenteau answered at 15:46.

"We need to win games and to accumulate points," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "Hopefully this is something that will springboard our team moving forward. But let me say that Chicago deserves a lot of credit for what they just did. That's quite a run that they went on, extremely impressive. That's a great hockey team over there."

The Blackhawks scored first for the 12th time this season on a goal by Jonathan Toews at 5:44 of the opening period. It came on their initial shot of the game after an Avalanche turnover.

The Avalanche tied the game 1-1 at 16:36 on a power-play goal by Stastny. Duchene was in the right circle when he slid a hard pass into the slot for Stastny, who redirected the puck past Crawford.

The Avalanche came into the game ranked last in the NHL on the power play with just eight goals in 67 man advantages. Stastny's goal ended the team's 0-for-13 drought on power plays covering parts of six games.

"We gave them too many open shots from the slot and made it too difficult on our goaltenders to make those stops," Toews said. "We had chances to stay close but didn't play smart enough in our own zone."

As proud of the streak as the Blackhawks are, Toews suggested that its end might even bring a bit of relief.

"I'd say the last handful of games the talk about it kind of got out of control," he said. "The guys in our locker room we always focused on the same thing, being prepared to play our team game. We never really got distracted by that. Maybe it does take a little bit of pressure off us and we can sit back and look at the good things we've done.

"We were fortunate to play well enough to make it this far. It's something we can be proud of. It's a pretty cool thing."

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