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Blackhawks stretch streak to 20 by beating Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The Chicago Blackhawks' historic run will live to see another day -- and they didn't need a sixth straight one-goal decision to make it happen.

Jonathan Toews scored twice, including a goal 12 seconds into the game, and the Hawks made it 17 wins in 20 tries by downing the St. Louis Blues 3-0 at Scottrade Center on Thursday night. The Blackhawks now have at least one point in each of their first 20 games this season and 26 in a row dating back to last March. They'll try to extend those streaks when they host Columbus on Friday night.

"It's cool to be mentioned like that in history," said Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery, who replaced Corey Crawford after the first period in goal after Crawford suffered an upper-body injury.

The Blackhawks (17-0-3) also made it 17 straight games earning at least a point on the road dating back to last season (13-0-4).

"At the end of the day when you have a chance to sit down and analyze what's going on, we haven't done that in here, but looking at our road record, that is very impressive," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "It speaks a lot to the preparation of our coaches and players that put into every game.

"Every building we play in is tough. No question St. Louis [was] a tough one tonight. The fact that we've managed to salvage points on the road is a good thing. We want to make sure that continues."

Right now, Chicago is getting points everywhere, no matter what building they play in.

"We’ve had some good games to date, but that might have been the best," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I just think we're taking pride in playing the game that's in front of us, being consistent and everyone challenging and pushing one another."

Andrew Shaw also scored for the Blackhawks, and Marian Hossa collected a pair of assists, Crawford stopped six shots before departing after one period. Emery stopped 15 more to complete the shutout.

"These guys played a really good defensive game," Emery said of his teammates. "I was kind of surprised going in there in the second period, but you have to be prepared for that. That's why I'm here. I thought it was a really complete game for the guys."

Jaroslav Halak kicked out 20 shots, but it wasn't enough as the Blues (10-7-2) were blanked on home ice for the first time since a 6-0 loss to Calgary on March 1, 2011. The Blues have scored only three goals in the last four games, covering 12 periods and one overtime.

It didn't take Chicago long to break out on top, as Toews redirected Brandon Saad's centering feed past Halak 12 seconds after the opening faceoff for a 1-0 lead. It's the fastest goal to start a game in for the Blackhawks since Dave Bolland [10 seconds] scored on March 16, 2012. Brent Sutter [eight seconds] has the franchise record when he scored on Feb. 5, 1995.

Hossa's long cross-ice pass to Saad allowed the play to develop, and Toews finished. The play was reviewed as the puck went in off Toews' skate, but without an intentional kicking motion.

"It was a good passing play," Toews said. "All five guys touched the puck. I rushed to the net. It went off my stick or shin pad ... whatever. It doesn't matter to me. It was a great way to start the game."

Blues captain David Backes, who left the game for a stretch in the second period but returned after taking the standard protocol concussion testing following a collision with Saad, said the Blues' top line had to take full responsibility for the poor start.

"It's a terrible start on our line's part," Backes said. "We've got to be better in setting the tone for our team. I don't know if there's a worse way to do it than 12 seconds in giving a goal up. We've got to improve that. That's on our shoulders.

"If stuff like that does happen, we've got to have the poise at some point in the game to get that back. We'll take full credit for the terrible start against a really good hockey team that you can't have that against."

The Blues pushed for the equalizer and nearly got it, but the Hawks were rescued once by a post and another time by Emery's glove.

Kevin Shattenkirk's wrister from the point on the Blues' third power play midway through the second period had eyes and found its way through traffic but hit the inside of the left post but stayed out. Patrik Berglund fed Chris Stewart all alone in the slot moments later, but instead of redirecting the puck from the crease, Stewart tried to flip a wrister from the right of the goal; Emery and his mitt were up to the task and preserved the 1-0 lead.

Shaw's fifth of the season came after Bryan Bickell won a puck battle with the Blues' Kris Russell behind the net, fed Shaw for a one-timer from the slot 2:11 into the third period for a 2-0 lead.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Shaw's goal was a backbreaker.

"The game was right there for us at 1-0," Hitchcock said. "We probably had more quality chances than they did, but the 2-0 goal took the wind out of our sails. I thought we had some opportunities in the first period like we talked about but didn't capitalize."

Toews got his second of the night off a rebound in front. Nick Leddy's shot from the top of the left circle was initially stopped by Halak, but Toews got inside position on defenseman Ian Cole to swat the rebound into the net at 6:56.

Quenneville said Crawford would return home with the team tonight as the Blackhawks host the Blue Jackets for the second time in six days. They beat Columbus 1-0 on Sunday.

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