Blackhawks one game from season-opening points mark
Fifteen games into the season, and the Chicago Blackhawks are on the verge of NHL history.
Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp each had a goal to help the Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Sunday, extending their season-opening points streak to 15 games. The Blackhawks (12-0-3) matched the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers for the league's second-longest streak, and are one away from the tying the mark set by Anaheim in 2006-07.
Chicago, which hasn't lost in regulation, will try to match it Tuesday when it hosts Vancouver - even if the Blackhawks aren't out for history.
"What's important to us is getting home-ice advantage, making the playoffs," Toews said. "Those are our goals. Once you get there, the real season starts. When you get to that point, no one really cares or remembers those streaks at the start of the season."
It has still been an impressive opening to the season, one that has the Blackhawks on track to achieve their ultimate goals. Anaheim won the Stanley Cup in 2007 after its record-setting points start, while the 1984-85 Oilers and Montreal, which opened with 14 straight in 1943-44, also won the Cup in those seasons.
"We're 15 games into the season," said Toews, Chicago's captain.
Mike Richards scored two power-play goals in the third period to pull the Kings within one after Chicago outplayed the Stanley Cup champions in the opening 40 minutes and built a 3-0 lead.
But the Blackhawks and goalie Ray Emery hung on.
"The guys wanted to get a good start, a good jump on L.A.," Seabrook said. "Ray made the big saves when he needed to."
Emery, Chicago's backup, made 25 saves. He lost a bid for his first shutout in more than three years when Richards connected 56 seconds into the third period. Emery made back-to-back starts for the first time this season with Corey Crawford missing his second game because of an undisclosed upper-body injury.
And things got a little frantic for Chicago at the end after Richards notched his second goal - just his fourth this season - with 7:10 left. The Blackhawks spent the final 1:04 short-handed after Johnny Oduya was sent off for slashing, and Jonathan Quick was pulled for an extra attacker during that span.
"I thought we had a great first 40 minutes and they got some momentum off their power-play goal early in the third," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "They had a great third period. We had 40, they had a great 20, and the clock ran out, which was nice."
Not so for Los Angeles (5-6-2), which has struggled on offense and with injuries. The only bright spot for the Kings was their power play, which came in ranked 27th in the NHL before connecting twice in a game for only the second time this season.
"We probably didn't play well enough to win this game," Richards said. "The slow start kind of cost us. We gave them a lot in the first period with penalties and some turnovers and they scored some goals, which put us behind the 8-ball pretty quick."
Sharp, who led Chicago with 33 goals last season, ended a 10-game scoring drought.
The Blackhawks outshot Los Angeles 37-27 and defeated the Kings for the second time this season to end Los Angeles' two-game winning streak. Chicago won 5-2 in the teams' season opener at Staples Center.
Quick started in goal and finished with 34 saves for the Kings after backup Jonathan Bernier was in net in Los Angeles' previous two games.
Chicago was a step faster than the Kings in the first period and held a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Seabrook opened the scoring 6:29 in to cap a Chicago flurry in the Kings' zone, and after Quick had made several in-close saves. Seabrook pinched down to the low edge of the left circle and took a pinpoint feed from Duncan Keith, who threaded a cross-ice pass from the top of the right circle. Seabrook then slid a shot into an open net before Quick could dive across.
Toews' power-play goal 4 minutes later made it 2-0. Sharp exploited a Kings coverage breakdown and increased Chicago's lead to 3-0 just 56 seconds into the second period.
The Blackhawks were in control for most of the second period and outshot Los Angeles 21-10. But Emery had to make several tough saves late in the period - including in-close stops on Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter - to keep the Kings off the scoreboard.
Richards cut it to 3-1 early in the third. With Brown providing a screen at the edge of the crease, Richards' high shot from the top of the slot sailed past Emery. Richards' second power-play goal trimmed it to 3-2 with 7:10 left.
NOTES: Before the game, Quenneville said Crawford was "progressing" and is day-to-day. When asked if Crawford's condition might be long-term, Quenneville replied, "I don't foresee that yet." Crawford - who has a 7-0-3 record, 1.65 goals-against average and .935 save percentage - has not skated since sustaining his injury, apparently in a 3-2 shootout loss to Anaheim last Tuesday.