CHICAGO – With each point, the pressure grows. The wins are piling up, increasing the expectations. And the Chicago Blackhawks just keep going and going.
Looking down on the rest of the NHL, Marian Hossa and Co. show no signs of slowing down.
The Blackhawks set a franchise record with their 10th consecutive victory and extended their points streak to 29 games with a 5-3 win against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
“It’s a great time right now,” said Hossa, who scored after he was honoured in a pregame ceremony for playing in his 1,000th NHL game Sunday at Detroit. “Everybody is hungry. We have a strong lineup and the guys are playing well.”
Bryan Bickell scored twice in the first period and Patrick Kane added a big goal in the third as Chicago (20-0-3) remained the only team in the league without a regulation loss. It also snapped a tie with the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens for the second-longest points streak in league history.
“It doesn’t feel like we’re on a streak,” Bickell said. “We’re just business, come to the rink and we’re going to do what we need to do.”
Ryan Suter scored his first goal with Minnesota, sending a power-play slap shot past a screened Corey Crawford in the third period. Kyle Brodziak then poked in his own rebound to get the Wild within one at 10:32.
But Kane beat Darcy Kuemper just 61 seconds later, sending a rebound into the upper right corner for his team-best 12th goal.
“Once they get their momentum going, they’re tough to slow down,” said Suter, who signed a big free-agent deal in the off-season and is tied for the team lead with 14 assists. “You saw that in the third period. When they score a goal, we’ve got to come back and with a good shift to try to get the momentum back. They just have so much firepower.”
Brandon Saad had a goal and two assists for the Blackhawks, who host the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. Crawford finished with 20 saves.
Kuemper, who replaced Niklas Backstrom at the start of the second period, had 14 stops for the Wild (11-9-2), who had won five of seven.
“We were not good,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. “It went beyond the first period, too, to be honest with you. We kind of made a game of it late there, but we definitely didn’t deserve this one.”
Matt Cullen helped Minnesota grab the lead in the first, poking the puck away from Andrew Shaw for a turnover in the Blackhawks’ end. Cullen then got it back and was stopped by Crawford, but Devin Setoguchi poked in the rebound to make it 1-0 at 8:22.
Chicago responded with four consecutive goals in a span of 5:43, showing off the depth and tenacity at the centre of its long points streak. Coming against the talented Wild, one of three teams with a victory over the Blackhawks this season, it was quite the statement.
Saad kicked off the dizzying display when he followed his own backhand attempt with another one that found the back of the net at 13:02. Bickell then swept in another rebound 44 seconds later, and scored again at 17:12 when Saad got the puck away from the boards and found him for a wrister that went in off Backstrom’s left arm.
The Blackhawks tacked on another one when Jonathan Toews forced a turnover in the Minnesota end, and Saad made a nifty pass to Hossa for his 10th goal of the season. Chants of “Hossa! Hossa!” cascaded down from the rafters as the right wing celebrated his first goal since he beat Edmonton in overtime on Feb. 25.
“We had some stretches, we made some real nice plays,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Got a little loose there on the (penalty kill) and they got a little momentum off that in the third, but good start.”
The night began with each of the Blackhawks wearing a No. 81 jersey during pregame warmups as the franchise honoured Hossa for his milestone appearance. The 34-year-old forward was joined by his wife, Jana, and daughter Mia for the pregame ceremony, when he was presented a silver stick and a painting of when he hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time in 2010.
Hossa, who signed a free-agent deal with Chicago in 2009, held Mia in his arms for much of the ceremony and maintained a stoic look as the crowd chanted his name in tribute.
“It was a special night for me, for my family,” He said. “It was amazing to have my wife and daughter right there with me at the ceremony. It was a nice, warm welcoming by the fans and I enjoyed it.”
NOTES: Blackhawks C Dave Bolland returned to the lineup after missing five consecutive games with an upper-body injury. … C Zenon Konopka and D Nate Prosser were scratched for the Wild. … Blackhawks RW Michael Frolik was scratched due to an illness.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap