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Blackhawks win again, continue streak

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have been called a lot of things during their outstanding and record-breaking start to the lockout-shortened season.

But Edmonton Oilers coach Ralph Krueger might have come up with the best description of all for the league's No. 1 team.

"They're relentless," Krueger said.

That perfectly describes Monday night's game, as Chicago uncharacteristically fell behind twice, only to rebound to tie and then win it 3-2 in overtime on Monday night at the United Center.

Blackhawks right winger Marian Hossa slipped the puck past a sprawled Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin for his ninth goal of the season at 1:44 of the extra period. Chicago improved to a league-best record of 16-0-3, the lone remaining team to not have lost a game in regulation.

"It's a great feeling," Hossa said. "It doesn't matter who scores. Lately, we've had a lot of different guys scoring, which is great. We try to enjoy the streak, keep playing a simple game and try to have fun and find a way to win hockey games."

And in so doing, and in what has become almost a routine fact of late, the Hawks also extended their league record of at least one point in each of their first 19 games.

"(Chicago is) the strongest team in the National Hockey League right now," Krueger said. "Of course you feel pain, having the lead going into the third period. It's definitely something you dream and believe you can close it, but they really are an amazingly powerful team.

"They're very, very strong on the puck. They never let up at all. ... That's the most pressure we felt from anybody this year. In the end, I'm proud of the players and the team for the point, for the character to come in here and take a point right now, but you believe you could have won this one too."

Yet even with their success, coach Joel Quenneville believes Chicago can still improve -- a scary thought given how the Blackhawks have found so many different ways to win games already.

"Every game is different and I think our thinking is we want to get better," Quenneville said. "To accept just OK or that's good enough, this league is so tight and competitive and close, doing things the right way is what we're all about. Whether it's (penalty killing), power play, goaltending or how we fill the gap, there's usually enough offense, so it's always on the defensive side of things that we look at things effectively.

"Every game there's an angle and I think the angle is just what we do and how can prepare and control our game, and that's where it's at. The guys are pushing one another and finding ways to get points and work our ways through games, but we don't want to look past the next game and that's what were focusing on."

Even though the Blackhawks outshot the Oilers 34-19, the visitors gave the hosts a strong test throughout the 61-plus minutes of play. For example, it's rare when Chicago falls behind not once but twice in the same game, and that's exactly what happened Monday night.

"We can't be happy with a loss, right?" Edmonton defenseman Ladislav Smid said. "I thought we played a great game and every mistake we made they scored a goal. We can't be happy with that."

Edmonton (7-8-3) jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 4:28 of the first period when defenseman Jeff Petry scored his first goal of the season -- in a short-handed situation, no less -- tipping in a rebound of an initial shot by Lennart Petrell.

Petrell's shot bounced forward off Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery, who wound up spread eagle on the ice, unable to get back to his feet in time to prevent Petry's easy loft shot into the net. Even so, Emery went on to extend his career-high winning streak, improving to 8-0-0 this season.

Edmonton's score appeared to get the Blackhawks both upset and fired up. Just over a minute later, Patrick Kane's power-play backhander got past Khabibulin to quickly erase Edmonton's early one-goal advantage. It was Kane's team-leading 10th goal of the season and ended a mini-slump in which he had not scored a goal since Feb. 10 at Nashville.

Edmonton went back ahead early in the second period on the power play when Nail Yakupov scored his sixth goal of the season to give the persistent Oilers a 2-1 edge.

But once again, the Oilers' lead was wiped away at 2:24 of the third period when Viktor Stalberg scored his fifth goal of the season to tie it at 2.

"I don't know if we've ever been behind in the third period this year," Quenneville said. "But it was a great third period and we had the puck a lot in overtime, too. I've been more than happy with their patience and presence with Hossa.

"These last three games we've found plays in some tight situations to persevere."

Both teams had chances in the third period to win, but strong defense on both sides of the puck ultimately forced the extra period.

Monday marked the final game of Chicago's longest homestand of the season, a seven-game run that ended with an outstanding 6-0-1 mark, including six wins in a row.

"When you play seven games in a row at home, that's a tough thing to get points out of every game," Quenneville said. "The guys should be commended on being consistent in their approach.

"It was a tough homestand and finding ways each and every night, and we expect everybody to be ready when we play. The games are so meaningful and we've put ourselves in a good spot, but we expect teams to be gunning and ready for us. That's just a kind of compliment."

NOTES: After a quick visit to St. Louis on Thursday, the Blackhawks will likely post their 200th straight home sellout at the United Center when they play host on Friday to the Blue Jackets, who they beat 1-0 Sunday. ... Monday marked the first of a season-high nine-game road trip for the Oilers, who don't return home until March 15 against Detroit. Edmonton's second game on the lengthy road trip is Thursday at Dallas. ... Chicago leads the overall series with Edmonton at 55-47-12-4 lead in the series with Edmonton (including 30-18-7-4 at home), Edmonton won the season series in 2011-12 at 3-1-0.
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