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Blackhawks beat Oilers to claim President's Trophy

The SportsXchange

EDMONTON -- For the last 48 hours, the Edmonton Oilers have felt like kids with their faces pressed against the candy store window and no money in their pockets.

They could look, but not touch.

Two days after the Anaheim Ducks rolled into Edmonton and clinched their division at the Oilers' expense, the Chicago Blackhawks came to town and used them as their final steppingstone to a President's Trophy.

Everybody's winning something except them.

On Wednesday, Chicago secured first place overall with a 4-1 victory.

The Blackhawks (35-6-5) have been brilliant all season. They stormed out of the gate with an NHL record streak of points in 24 consecutive games (21-0-3), and they haven't slowed down much since.

They have lost back-to-back games in regulation just twice.

"It wasn't necessarily the goal we set out to accomplish at the start of the year -- to win the President's Trophy -- but now that we're in this position, we're glad we did it," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "There's so much parity in this league, it's a nice accomplishment to finish there. But at the same time, every team that makes the playoffs can win (the Stanley Cup)."

The Blackhawks are the favorites, though, and want to finish strong before opening their postseason run.

"We're feeling good, we're happy with where our game is right now," defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "We want to use these last few games to get on some sort of a roll here and take that into the playoffs."

Edmonton, meanwhile, has lost nine of its last 10 games and will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year.

For some reason, though, the Oilers always seem to give Chicago all kinds of trouble. They were 4-0-1 against the Hawks in their previous five meetings and 6-3-1 in the previous 10.

Go figure.

This one, despite a 32-point spread in the standings, was actually close for 40 minutes before Chicago got serious and pulled away in the third.

"We're kind of used to teams playing defensive against us, trying to trap us up and hold the score to a low-scoring game," Chicago's Patrick Kane said. "It's different against these guys. They kind of run and gun against us. I guess sometimes we might think that it might be a track meet, and we end up getting behind because we're kind of cheating on the puck and they have so much skill."

The Hawks opened the scoring just 3:58 into the first period when Jonathan Toews put a shot under the arm of Devan Dubnyk, but the Oilers got that one right back when rookie Nail Yakupov scored his 12th of the year. Kane scored on a breakaway 8:11 into the first to give Chicago a 2-1 lead heading into intermission.

Then the Hawks decided to tighten things up and the Oilers were doomed. By game's end, they had 22 turnovers to Chicago's four.

"The lessons are right there in front of us," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said. "We got the outcome we deserved because of our puck management."

Edmonton registered just two shots in the second period but escaped without any damage thanks to some big saves from Dubnyk.

The luck ran out early in the third period when Johnny Oduya put a shot under the crossbar at 4:36. A two-goal deficit against the best team in the league was too much for the Oilers to overcome. Patrick Sharpe added the empty-netter.

"I wish I had an answer," Dubnyk said. "We need to be a group of professionals in here; we need to be proud. It's an opportunity to go out there and play how we want to play, and we didn't do that, and we haven't done that.

"We can just ditch the system."

NOTES: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Dubnyk accepted invitations to play for Team Canada at the World Championships in Sweden and Finland. ... C Drew LeBlanc stepped in for the Blackhawks, playing his first NHL game. ... Chicago's division title is the 15th in franchise history. ... Chicago is tied for the league lead in shutouts (seven) and is one of only three teams that has not been shut out. ... Yakupov is two points off the rookie scoring lead, with 26 points. ... Chicago goalie Ray Emery started and played about 10 minutes before skating to the bench and pulling himself from the game. The team is calling it a lower-body injury.
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