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Blackhawks can't best Avs a second time, and a streak ends

Photo: Michael Martin/Getty Images

Niklas Hjalmarsson and the Hawks couldn't keep up with Gabriel Landeskog and the fleet young Avs.

DENVER -- For 30 straight regular-season games, the second column in the Chicago Blackhawks' record sat in goose-egged suspended animation. For almost half a full season, a zero stared back at observers, defying the hockey world to make that change.

Friday night, the zero finally switched over to a 1. The Colorado Avalanche, playing the role of dragon slayers, finally found some soft underbelly and slew the streak with a 6-2 win at the Pepsi Center.

The following sentence just doesn't look right, does it? The Chicago Blackhawks lost a game in regulation. Just when some were starting to wonder, "Can these guys really go a full season without a regulation loss? They are halfway there, after all," the spry young Avs said "Not in our house."

Which is funny, because during the early parts of this game, it certainly seemed more like the Blackhawks' house than the Avs'. Hundreds, maybe a couple thousand, Blackhawks jersey-wearing fans made it seem like just another game at the United Center with loud "Let's go Blackhawks" chants. When Jonathan Toews scored an easy-as-you-please goal at 5:44 of the first, booming cheers could be heard through the arena called The Can by the locals. And after that? Let's just say all those proud Chi-Town transplants weren't heard as much.

Starting with a Paul Stastny redirection past Corey Crawford and continuing into a four-goal Avalanche landslide in the second, the streak was an endangered species. With a minute to go in the game, Avs fans were the ones shrieking to the rafters with cries of "End of streak, end of streak."

"It's over. We lost tonight's game," said Crawford, who was pulled after two periods for Ray Emery. "Five goals -- it's hard to win when you give up that much. I didn't give the guys a chance. (The streak) was great. We talked about it a lot and we played so well as a team, but it's over. We just have to worry about the next one."

The Chicago captain, Toews, said his team never got distracted by the streak, despite growing national acclaim. But he admitted all the effort used to respond to "How does it feel, can you guys keep it going?" types of queries might have gotten a little tiring.

"I'd say maybe the last 10 games, I think the talk about it kind of got out of control," he said. "I think through everything, with the guys in our locker room, we always focus on the same things and just being prepared to play our team game. If anything, maybe it does take a little bit of pressure off us and we can kind of sit back and look at the good things we've done but also remind ourselves of the things we've done that make us successful as a team and try and bring that back."

Said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville: "I talked with them after the game, and told them they should be proud of what they accomplished. It's a great feather in our cap, but let's move forward here and try to get better."

In the victorious Avalanche dressing room, there was definitely a feeling of vindication. The Avs thought they'd end the streak Wednesday in Chicago, but some of the usual third-period brain cramps they've had over the last bunch of games got them again. With youngsters such as Matt Duchene (four points against Chicago, with a goal and three assists), reigning Calder Trophy winner Gabriel Landeskog and the newly re-signed Ryan O'Reilly, the Avs know they have a dangerous young team that might slay more dragons by the end of the season. Question is, will their so-so start make it too hard to make the playoffs in the end?

"We definitely need to use this game as a springboard," Landeskog said. "We know now the level we can play at. We just have to bear down and go on a streak of our own."

The Avs are on one now: 1.

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