Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, of Slovakia, files off the ice with teammates after the Colorado Avalanche's 6-2 victory in an NHL hockey game in Denver on Friday, March 8, 2013. The Blackhawks lost in regulation for the first time this season. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
DENVER - The Chicago Blackhawks aren't about to mourn the end of their streak.
"We're proud of it, but it'll be nice to move on now," defenceman Duncan Keith said after the Blackhawks' 6-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.
The loss was Chicago's first in regulation this season and ended a remarkable run in which they earned at least one point in their first 24 games, an NHL record.
"It's hockey. We've lost games before in our lives. It's not like we're going to sit here and cry," Keith said.
Instead, they'll sit back and celebrate, said coach Joel Quenneville, who told his team afterward "that they should be very proud of what they accomplished. 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."
So, they left the ice without a point for once but also with their heads held high.
The Blackhawks (21-1-3) hadn't lost in regulation since a 6-1 rout by Nashville on March 25, 2012, and their last loss in regulation on the road came more than a year ago, with a 5-1 defeat at St. Louis on March 6, 2012.
Dating to last year's regular season, the streak was 30 games.
"That's just mind-boggling," Avalanche centre Paul Stastny said. "That's two full months without losing. Hats off to them. But to be the team that was able to stop them—we had a chance last time and didn't do it—but the way our schedule was we knew we had back-to-back games and would have two chances to stop it. And that's what we wanted to do, stop their streak and get one going for us."
Chicago's overall points streak was the second-longest in NHL history. The 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers set the league record with a staggering 35-game unbeaten streak that included 25 wins and 10 ties—all in the same season.
"It's special," said Matt Duchene, who had a goal and a career-best three assists. "It's obviously something no one had done yet. But what a run by them. I mean, first of all, congratulations to them. What a run they had. I don't think they're going to slow down because of this. But it's pretty special. It's a good feeling in here. We're pretty happy."
Ryan O'Reilly got his first goal since his contract dispute was resolved more than a week ago and assisted on another score in a four-goal onslaught in the second period that turned a 1-1 tie into a laugher. Stastny collected three points.
Duchene, John Mitchell and Jamie McGinn also put pucks past Corey Crawford in the second period for the Avalanche, who had lost six of their previous seven, including a 3-2 heartbreaker at Chicago 48 hours earlier.
Crawford (11-1-3) allowed five goals on 19 shots before being replaced in net by Ray Emery to start the third period.
"I didn't have it tonight," Crawford said. "Didn't give our guys a chance."
Semyon Varlamov had 30 saves for Colorado.
The Avalanche nearly ended the spectacular streak in Chicago on Wednesday night before the Blackhawks pulled out the win when Daniel Carcillo scored the tiebreaking goal with 49.3 seconds left. Chicago was skating without three key forwards and playing its second game in two nights then.
There was no such comeback Friday night at the Pepsi Center for Chicago, which hadn't allowed more than four goals in a game this season or even trailed by more than two goals until the Avs' spectacular second period.
"It's a great confidence booster," Duchene said. "It shows us we can play with anybody in this league."
The crowd chanted, "End of streak! End of streak!" over the final minutes after P.A. Parenteau's 10th goal of the season made it 6-2.
Bryan Bickell's goal with 11:07 pulled the Blackhawks to 5-2 and he nearly scored again from the same spot 90 seconds later, but Varlamov smothered the shot—and that was that.
The teams got into a scuffle with 5:04 left after Bickell squared off with Gabriel Landeskog, who had checked Keith in the back.
Chicago's Jonathan Toews got the scoring started when he knocked the puck past Varlamov after a turnover on a give-and-go with forward Marian Hossa, who returned from an upper-body injury.
But Colorado scored the next five goals.
Duchene's goal between Crawford's legs made it 2-1. Just 33 seconds later, Mitchell scored on an assist from O'Reilly, who was signed to a two-year $10 million deal last week after the Avalanche matched Calgary's offer sheet following a nasty contract dispute.
O'Reilly's goal came on a slap shot from the top of the right circle 4 seconds into another power play. Duchene set him up with a pass after Stastny won the faceoff.
Duchene got his third assist when he dug out a loose puck from the boards in a scramble with Keith and kicked it out to McGinn, who put made it 5-1.
Remarkable though it was, the streak had become somewhat of a burden for the Blackhawks.
"It's gained a lot of momentum over the last little while and our opponents, they treated it like it was a very important game," Quenneville said. "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."
After a while, it seemed the streak had taken on a life of its own.
"I'd say the last handful of games the talk about it kind of got out of control," Toews 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."
The Blackhawks' run comes with somewhat of an asterisk because they actually lost three games along the way—all in shootouts. Under NHL rules, that's still worth a point, but that makes it different from what the Flyers accomplished nearly a quarter-century ago.
During the Flyers' streak there was no overtime until the playoffs, and the shootout was still a far-off creation. If the teams were tied after 60 minutes, that's how it ended and each got a point.
Nowadays, both teams still receive a point if the game is tied at the end of regulation. Then, the team that scores in a five-minute, four-skaters-a-side overtime period or wins the shootout gets an extra point.
"It's over," Crawford said. "Move on to the next game."
NOTES: Avalanche D Erik Johnson returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a head injury. ... The Blackhawks were without F Patrick Sharp, who left Wednesday's home win over the Avalanche with a shoulder injury after being checked along the boards by Colorado's Ryan O'Byrne.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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