Byfuglien nets Blackhawks franchise-best ninth straight win

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) — Dustin Byfuglien helped the
Chicago Blackhawks continue a franchise-record winning streak.
Unfortunately for the Minnesota Wild, he also added to their
recent run as well.

Byfuglien recorded two goals and two assists as the Blackhawks
posted their ninth consecutive victory with a 4-1 triumph over
the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. The streak ties them with the San
Jose Sharks for the longest in the NHL this season.

“It’s good to be part of making history, and we’re not done
yet,” Byfuglien said. “We’re going to keep going and bring this
on as long as we can.”

Martin Havlat scored his ninth of the season and Kris Versteeg
had a goal and two assists. Cristobal Huet added 18 saves for
Chicago, which now faces Central Division leader Detroit in a
back-to-back situation, including Thursday’s Winter Classic at
Wrigley Field.

“We just need to keep getting better,” Blackhawks captain
Jonathan Toews said. “It’s not about winning streaks. It’s not
about the history, I guess. Obviously, we have some big games
coming up.”

Rookie Cal Clutterbuck scored and Niklas Backstrom finished with
28 saves for Minnesota, which fell to 2-7-1 in its last 10
games. The Wild are 0-6-1 against the Western Conference during
the stretch.

“I know some of the guys didn’t play like we expect, and that I
don’t know why,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “It’s not
because we didn’t talk about Chicago. It’s the best team right
now, everyone knows that. If you don’t know it, you don’t
follow hockey – and I don’t think you should play.”

Minnesota was even booed off the home ice after a lackluster
first period, an all-too-often occurrence for the Wild.
Minnesota has allowed its opponent to score the first goal in a
franchise-record 10 straight games. Meanwhile, the Wild have
just two first-period tallies in their last 11 games.

Byfuglien, a Minnesota native, collected a loose puck on a
scramble in front of Backstrom for his first goal of the game
7:14 into the opening period. With players crashing around
Backstrom, Toews centered the puck from behind the net and
Byfuglien was able to get a stick on the loose puck and slide it
past a sprawling Backstrom.

The Wild were outshot 15-4 in the first period and 27-10 in the
first two periods.

“We’re going to have to give them credit, nine wins in a row
shows something about the team,” Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu said.
“But, they are not that good. They outworked us tonight, that is

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“We had one good player tonight and that was Backstrom, who had
the effort to play this game tonight. If that doesn’t change,
there is something wrong inside of the team. In every player in
this room, except for the goalie, it’s not going to work like

Byfuglien’s second of the game and seventh of the season came on
the first power play of the game as he redirected defenseman
Duncan Keith’s shot from the point past Backstrom’s right side.

“Every guy in here wants to set new records and be a part of
it,” Byfuglien said. “That’s what we’re doing. We’re just
working together, having fun. If we start getting down, someone
will crack a joke and we’ll get back at it and start having fun

Havlat made it a 3-0 game just over 14 minutes into the second,
sneaking a shot past Backstrom from the slot.

The Wild, typically strong on the home ice, were again booed at
the end of the second period, but Clutterbuck’s fourth tally of
the season put Minnesota on the board early in the second.

The rookie accepted a feed from Stephane Veilleux and beat Huet
high with a sizzling wrist shot 2:47 into the third.

Versteeg finished the scoring with an empty-netter with two
seconds left.

“We had a good team last year and we came up just shy of the
playoffs,” Toews said. “It just shows how far we’ve come since
last season. We’re happy about it, but the season is not over.
We can’t sit on our laurels right now, as they say. We’re happy
about it, but we’re going to keep getting better.”

In the meantime, Chicago has certainly done its part to set up a
prime matchup for the Winter Classic. Detroit leads the Central
Division with 51 points. The Blackhawks franchise-record streak
has given them 47 points.

“It’s a big win for us, a special achievement for the whole
group,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “They should be
proud. We did a lot of good things on this stretch, and now we
have a chance to play one of the best, or I think the best. It
should be exciting.”