Blackhawks keep making history, beat pesky Blue Jackets

Jerry Bonkowski, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- How long can the Chicago Blackhawks' history-making unbeaten streak continue?
Perhaps a better question: Now 21 games into a 48-game, lockout-shortened season, will they ever lose in regulation play this season?
The NHL's best and only remaining undefeated team in regulation rallied to defeat the league's worst team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3 in overtime Friday at the United Center.
Admittedly, it wasn't easy; however, as Chicago had to battle back three times from either a deficit or a tie, before Brent Seabrook scored the game-winner with 1:37 remaining in the extra period.
"Even when this team is down, we don't really panic," Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa said. "Right now, it seems like there's a lot of confidence and anybody can score the big goal and put our team back in the game, and it was like that tonight."
The Blackhawks have earned a point in 21 straight games, which extends both the league's and team's all-time record for team point streaks to begin a season.
The 21-game point streak also marks a franchise record for overall point streak.
Including the end of last season, the Hawks can tie the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens for the second-longest points streak (28) in NHL history with a win Sunday at Detroit. The league record is 35, set by the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers.
It was a textbook way to score a game-winning goal, as Blackhawks center and captain Jonathan Toews sent the puck through the Columbus goal crease, leaving Seabrook to just tap in the deciding score.
"It was a great play, great pass, great finish," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think tonight was very representative of the last two games with Columbus, where it's a scrappy game, on the line throughout and finding a way to win, all with three one-goal games and very similar.
"It's one of those games where anything can happen, and I commend the guys again for persevering and finding a way to win."
Chicago improved to an 18-0-3 record and 39 points, both league bests to date.
"I don't think anyone could have dreamt of that going into the season, but we're excited the way we're playing," said Blackhawks winger Viktor Stalberg, who had Chicago's first goal in Friday's game. "In the big scheme of things, we're playing real sound hockey.
"We're not giving up a lot of goals, we're scoring by committee and not just one line, and we're finding ways to really get it done out there. We want to keep this rolling as long as we can."
Columbus gave it a good try, but fell yet again, dropping to 5-12-4 (1-5-2 in its last eight games).
"I think there's a lot of frustration because we've been close a lot of times, not just against Chicago, but we've been close and in games all the way to the third period, but we're coming out on the short end," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "We've got to find a way to come out on top. Once we start stringing two or three, then I'll start talking about confidence, but right now it's more frustration than anything else."
Columbus didn't wait long to get on the scoreboard in the first period. Vinny Prospal netted both his team-leading seventh goal of the season as well as the 250th tally of his NHL career, giving the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead 31 seconds into the game.
Columbus kept Chicago off-balance for much of the opening period with a combination of strong defense and an aggressive offensive game.
But the Blackhawks broke through at 16:09 of the opening period when Stalberg tipped in a rebound from Brandon Saad, beating outstretched Columbus goalie Steve Mason. It was Stalberg's sixth goal of the season, tying the score at 1-1.
Columbus regained its early lead at 12:42 of the second period on center Artem Anisimov's fifth goal of the season, making it 2-1.
Once again, Chicago came back to tie the game at 17:20 of the middle period as Patrick Sharp scored his fifth goal of the season on a wicked low-angle slap shot to tie the game at 2-all.
But the Hawks weren't done, as Bryan Bickell scored his third goal of the season at 18:19 (unassisted) to give Chicago a 3-2 edge.
In the third period, the scrappy Blue Jackets proved they weren't going to give up easily, tying the game at 3-3 on Ryan Johansen's first goal of the season at 12:23.
"I thought our third period was much better, we battled, competed, scored a goal, got into overtime - but again, it's just not quite good enough," Richards said.
Chicago's Saad tried to score the game-winner midway through the overtime period, but the goal was disallowed because he grabbed a puck in the air and then threw it into the Blue Jackets' net.
Ray Emery, who replaced Corey Crawford in the second period of Thursday's win at St. Louis -- when Crawford aggravated a prior upper body injury that sidelined him for four earlier games -- was back in the starting lineup Friday. With the win, Emery is now 9-0-0 this season, which is also the longest personal career winning streak for him.
Asked after the game if he has found himself in awe of what his team has done thus far this season, Quenneville smiled and said, "Once" before adding, "We're definitely pleased. We're very happy."
NOTES: Chicago's Hossa will play in his 1,000th career game Sunday. "It's wonderful for me to reach this milestone, and over the years I've played with so many great players, and I'm just glad I'm making this milestone and that have a few more left," Hossa said. "So many years have gone by so quick. I remember as an 18-year-old jumping into this league and, all of a sudden, I'm 34 with 1,000 games coming up. Time flies." ... The Hawks travel to Detroit to play the Red Wings on Sunday before returning to the United Center Tuesday and Wednesday for games vs. Minnesota and Colorado. ... The Blue Jackets' return home to play Colorado on Sunday, the start of nine home games in a 10-game stretch. ... Friday marked the one-year anniversary of Columbus goalie Steve Mason's last shutout (vs. San Jose). ... Chicago is now 36-28-8 all-time against the Blue Jackets. ... Friday's announced attendance was 21,828, the Hawks' 200th straight sellout. ... The Blackhawks announced Friday that they will honor broadcaster Pat Foley for his 30th season as the team's play-by-play voice at the April 19 home game vs. Nashville.

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