Neither the Christmas break nor the Philadelphia Flyers
could slow down the Chicago Blackhawks
In front of 22,712 fans, the biggest crowd in Chicago hockey history — at least until Jan. 1 —the Hawks got goals from five players as they routed the Philadelphia Flyers 5-1 for their eighth consecutive victory. That matches the franchise record for longest winning streak set in December 1971 and matched in January 1981.
"It's tough to find a weakness in our team right now," said forward Patrick Sharp, who scored his team-high 19th goal of the season in the first period. "The best thing about these eight games is that our team has stayed pretty mellow the whole time. We're enjoying the ride, but we're not getting too far ahead of ourselves."
Martin Havlat, who had two assists, said the crowd was a big factor in the record-tying win.
"It’s a lot of fun to play in front of a crowd like this," said Havlat, who, with his teammates, will play in front of more than 40,000 people on Jan. 1 when the Hawks host Detroit in the Bridgestone Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. "With the fans, we always have six guys on the ice. They are part of the winning."
With no travel allowed on Christmas, the Flyers didn't arrive in Chicago until midday due to travel problems, forcing them to cancel their morning skate. The Hawks jumped on them quickly, wasting little time in giving the big crowd plenty to cheer about.
Andrew Ladd put Chicago ahead 73 seconds into the game when he skated past Philadelphia's Jeff Carter, followed up Havlat's shot and beat goalie Martin Biron on a rebound from the middle of the slot.
"I don't know if they had their legs," Ladd said. "They're a team that's big and strong and skates well."
Sharp made it 2-0 at 2:35 by taking Patrick Kane's pass and lifting the puck over Biron.
Mike Richards slowed down the party, at least for a while, by beating Nikolai Khabibulin with a wrist shot at 7:42.
The score remained 2-1 into the third period — mostly due to the heroics of Biron, who kept his team in the game in the middle 20 minutes by making 14 saves while his teammates managed just one shot on Khabibulin.
"That's unacceptable," forward Joffrey Lupul said. "We've got a lot of guys who are shooters and like to get to the net."
But the Flyers got themselves into penalty trouble late in the second period and paid the price early in the third. With Lupul and Simon Gagne in the box, Brian Campbell made it 3-1 at 39 seconds of the third period. Chicago got a second 5-on-3 goal at 4:07 when Kris Versteeg beat Biron with a wrist shot, and turned the game into a rout when Dave Bolland scored a minute later.
"If you don't score there, they get a lot of momentum," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of the two-man advantages. "We did a lot of smart things tonight. Took shots, went to the net. The simpler we play, the better we are. This was one of our better games all year, in all aspects."
The Hawks continue to get production from all four times, making them almost impossible to defend against.
"We have a lot of lines that can score," Versteeg said. "Our third and fourth lines are very good and you can't ignore them."
Philadelphia coach John Stevens refused to use the Flyers' flight delay or the two-day holiday layoff, as an excuse.
"This team has lost only one game at home this year for a reason," Stevens said about the Blackhawks' 11-1-4 record at home. "I thought we were cheating all over the ice. We ended up taking too many penalties."