DENVER — Soaring when they hit the Mile High City, the Blackhawks were brought back to earth in spectacular fashion and their historic run is history.
The Hawks didn’t just lose for the first time this season in regulation, they looked sluggish in doing it as the Avalanche crushed them 6-2 Friday night at Pepsi Center.
After a first half of the season during which they could do no wrong, everything fell apart for the Hawks as their 24-game run to begin the 2013 season was halted. Also ended was the Hawks’ franchise-record 11-game winning streak and the 30 consecutive contests with at least one point dating back to last season.
“We had our chances to stay close but we didn’t play smart enough in our own zone — it came down to that,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We’ve been fortunate to play well enough to make it this far and it’s something we can be proud of. We’ll take the confidence we gained from all that and keep going forward. Everyone knows you can’t win them all.”
Losing puck battles, failing in the faceoff circle and looking winded during their sixth game in nine nights, the Hawks fell to 21-1-3 in 2013. It was their first defeat in regulation since March 25, 2012 against the Predators.
“We’re not happy we didn’t get two points but we’re certainly proud of the start we had,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “It wasn’t easy playing that many games in a short period of time and doing what we did. We’re proud of it but it will be nice to move on now and look forward to Sunday’s game.”
When they take the ice Sunday night against the Oilers at the United Center, the Hawks will do so for the first time this season with a regulation loss.
“We’ve lost games before in our lives,” Keith said. “It’s not like we’re going to sit here and cry now. We just move on and try and be better next game.”
The Hawks actually jumped in front early in the opening period on a Toews goal, but the Avs — who looked a step quicker than the Hawks all game — mounted an offensive attack that stunned goaltender Corey Crawford for five consecutive goals from five different players.
Matt Duchene had a goal and three assists, Paul Stastny and PA Parenteau each had a goal and two helpers, Ryan O’Reilly a goal and an assist and John Mitchell and Jamie McGinn also scored for the Avs, who avenged a 3-2 loss to the Hawks on Wednesday night at the United Center. Bryan Bickell also scored for the Hawks but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Semyon Varlamov earned the victory in goal for the Avalanche while Crawford took the loss, lasting two periods before he Ray Emery replaced him to start the third.
“I just didn’t have it,” Crawford said. “I didn’t give our guys a chance. I have to be better than that.”
Toews opened the scoring in the first off a pretty passing play with Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa. He eventually scored off a give-and-go with Hossa and the Hawks appeared to be off and running.
Stastny tied it late in the first while the Avs were on a power play when he redirected a Duchene shot. The Avs owned the second with four goals to erase any doubt that it wasn’t the Hawks’ night. Duchene flipped a backhander past Crawford, Mitchell rifled one in from the slot, O’Reilly scored from the high slot with a man advantage and McGinn tucked the puck past Crawford to end the second-period onslaught.
The barrage also ended Crawford’s night as coach Joel Quenneville turned to Emery. Crawford yielded the five goals on 19 shots to drop to 11-1-3 on the season.
In the third, Bickell cut the Hawks’ deficit to 5-2 when the winger blasted a one-timer from the right dot past Varlamov. Parenteau ended the scoring and not long after many in the Pepsi Center crowd began changing “end of streak, end of streak.”
In the end, the Avalanche had done just that, as the Hawks could begin reflecting on the NHL record of 24 games to start the season without a regulation loss.
“It’s pretty amazing to make it this far, halfway through the shortened season,” Toews said. “We’ll bounce back from this one.”
By Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune reporter