CHICAGO – Just when it seems like the Chicago Blackhawks have run out of ways to keep this historic point streak alive, they come up with something new and equally amazing.
This time the hero was gritty forward Daniel Carcillo, who has battled back from two knee injuries (one major and one minor) in a little more than a year's time to join the Blackhawks' incredible start to the season and make his first goal of it quite memorable.
Carcillo backhanded the game-winning goal home with the game tied and just 49.3 seconds left in regulation Wednesday night to beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 at United Center – extending their run of games with at least a point to 24 straight starting this season and 30 dating back to last year.
"It's not normal, that's for sure," Carcillo said of the run, which includes a franchise-record win streak that was pushed to 11 straight victories on Wednesday. "I don't know about [it being] surreal, but it's definitely not normal. I'm pretty proud to be on this team and I'll do anything I can every night to help this team win. And I think everyone has the same attitude in this room."
The Blackhawks, who improved to a jaw-dropping 21-0-3 at the season's midway point, had a spate of injuries leave them with just nine healthy forwards available to take shifts in the last half of the third period. It started with star Marian Hossa being unable to play because of an upper-body injury after taking warm-ups and proceeded with the loss of third-line center Andrew Shaw at 14:03 of the second.
Patrick Sharp also left the ice holding his left shoulder at 7:49 of the third after a crushing hit by Ryan O'Byrne into the boards, which really taxed the Blackhawks' forward groups. Making matters even more difficult was Michael Frolik sitting out a second straight game with an illness and Brandon Bollig being returned to Rockford of the American Hockey League earlier in the day to make roster space for defenseman Steve Montador's return from a lengthy injury.
The fact they found a way to win, yet again, just made the Blackhawks' captain shake his head afterward. He didn't, however, attribute any part of the most recent comeback win to luck.
"A lot of people might think that we're pulling that game out of you know where, but really we're working for it," said Jonathan Toews, whose shorthanded goal just 2:19 into the third tied it 2-2 after being outplayed in the previous period. "There's no special equation or whatever. There's no magic. It's just work ethic and the depth of our team kicking in."
Shaw scored Chicago's first goal at 9:51 of the opening period to give the Blackhawks an early 1-0 lead, while goalie Ray Emery won his 10th straight start to improve his record to 10-0-0.
Semyon Varlomov (29 saves) took the loss, while John Mitchell and Matt Duchene scored for Colorado (8-10-4), which dropped its third straight game.
"It's a tough loss again," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "It's two games in row that I thought we handled the game pretty well, for the most part, and we have a power play and we don't generate anything – and we give up the [goal] on it. It's just frustrating right now. We did some things well and to come up again without any points, it's disappointing."
Chicago started the scoring when Shaw tipped a point blast by defenseman Brent Seabrook past Varlamov. It was also Seabrook's big hit about a minute earlier that led to the man-advantage.
After driving Patrick Bordeleau into the Avs bench with a hard check, Cody McLeod picked up a roughing minor for crosschecking Seabrook to the ice from behind – which caused a post-whistle scrum in front of the Colorado bench.
Chicago just couldn't transfer the momentum from Shaw's tally into another goal before Mitchell's seventh marker of the season tied it 1-1 with 1:40 left in the first. After barely avoiding an offside call entering the zone, Mitchell took a short pass from Chuck Kobasew in the slot and beat Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the net.
He then pulled off a smooth forehand-backhand deke to lift the puck over the sprawled Emery's left pad into the net for his seventh goal of the season. The Blackhawks pushed for the go-ahead goal starting the second, but Varlamov was up to the task and got a stroke of luck when Brandon Saad fired a shot over the net with the Avs goalie out of position.
Duchene then put Colorado up 2-1 with 6:43 left in the second by taking a pass from PA Parenteau and flipping a shot from close range off Emery's thigh into the net. That's the way it stayed to start the third, until Toews soon tied it 2-2 with his shorthanded goal – a thing of beauty in which he beat a defender to the outside and broke hard toward the net with the puck on his stick.
Toews tucked it past the outstretched leg of Varlamov and the Blackhawks were all riled up. Ray Emery made several outstanding saves to keep it tied, which led to Carcillo's marker – which he scored with a backhanded whack through traffic.
"The rebound came out and I just put it as hard as I could along the ice," Carcillo said. "Varlamov got in the butterfly and it squeaked through. Body-wise, I'm 100 percent, but mentally getting back into the game [after] missing almost 14 months … it's hard and I'm still getting back into the swing of things. It's nice to get rewarded, because it's been a long, hard road. That's for sure."