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Kane scores twice to lead Blackhawks past Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- An early wakeup call and same-day flight didn't affect the Chicago Blackhawks enough to prevent them from defeating the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 at Pepsi Center on Saturday.

Patrick Kane had two goals and an assist for the Central Division-leading Blackhawks (24-10-2), who rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 first-period deficits.

The loss was the first in four games for the Avalanche (13-14-8), who went 4-0-2 in their previous six games.

"It was tough, but the boys handled it well," said defenseman Brent Seabrook, who put the Blackhawks in front for the first time 3-2 with a power-play goal at 13:14 of the second period and made a couple of terrific defensive plays to snuff out Avalanche scoring chances. "It's a tough game, tough coming here with the [altitude], it's tough to breathe. The guys did a good job of keeping their shifts short, keeping energy."

Patrick Sharp celebrated his 33rd birthday with a power-play goal at 8:14 of the third period to give Chicago a 4-2 lead and Kane scored into an empty net with 5.4 seconds to play. Kane has six goals and seven assists in the past eight games.

The Blackhawks protected their 4-2 lead by killing back-to-back Avalanche power plays, including a two-man advantage for 40 seconds.

Chicago went 2-for-4 on the power play; Colorado was 0-for-3.

"I cannot say we didn't play well tonight," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "Their power play and our power play were the difference. Obviously we need to be better in that area. We had our chances to get back in the game, we just didn't manage the puck well and couldn't get the quality shots on net."

After permitting goals to Nathan MacKinnon and Erik Johnson on the first four shots he faced, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford shut down the Avalanche with 21 consecutive saves, 11 in the third period.

"Great recovery," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "The second one, after that he settled down."

Seabrook scored the tie-breaking goal with a shot from the right circle that went past Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda and sailed by goalie Calvin Pickard with MacKinnon in the penalty box for delay of game.

"I think [Seabrook] has really proven what he can do on both sides of the puck," said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who had two assists. "I mean, we've always known in this locker room, but it's good to see someone get that production that they deserve."

Pickard made 28 saves before vacating the net for an extra skater in the final two minutes. He allowed one goal in each of his three previous starts.

"The thing that doesn't sit well with me is their two power-play goals," Pickard said. "[Two goals on] three shots. ... I need to be better on the penalty kill. I thought I did a pretty good job for the most part. They're stacked, very skilled. Every team's got a lot of skill, but they take it to the next level."

The Avalanche and Blackhawks were tied 2-2 in a fast-paced first period.

"We knew it wouldn't be easy," Toews said. "We just came out and played the right type of game. Maybe it wasn't the best start out of the gate, but I think we got better as the game went on."

MacKinnon opened the scoring for Colorado at 6:56 with his first goal in 17 games since Nov. 13 against the New York Rangers. He took a pass from Maxime Talbot, raced down right wing and beat Crawford to the far side for his first goal at home since Nov. 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Blackhawks responded at 7:27 when Toews passed across the slot to Brandon Saad for a shot through a crowd of players screening Pickard.

Johnson put the Avalanche ahead at 8:53 with a shot from the right point that eluded Crawford to the short side. The goal was Johnson's 10th of the season, matching his career-high, and stretched his goal streak to four games. He has six goals in the past six games.

"I'd trade it for a win any day of the week," Johnson said. "It's just a number, but it's good to contribute and hopefully I can continue to do that in winning ways."

Kane tied it for Chicago at 16:19. Duncan Keith shot from the right point and Kane, while skating to the net, deflected it past Pickard.

The Avalanche killed two penalties in the period and came close to scoring on each. Alex Tanguay had a semi-breakaway with Ryan O'Reilly in the box for tripping, but he skated too deep on the left and hit the outside of the post at 3:53.

Talbot shot the puck off the far post from the left wing at 11:51 with Zach Redmond off for interference.

"We had great chances in the first," Roy said. "I thought we played really well, we were skating well, we had great chances. It would have been great to come back with the lead after one period. It was a hard-fought game."

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