DETROIT – The Chicago Blackhawks can’t be beat, in regulation at least, because they can roll four lines of forwards, play three pairs of defencemen and put one of their two good goaltenders in net.
And, they have Patrick Kane.
Kane scored with 2:02 left in the third period and had the only shootout goal, helping Chicago beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 Sunday and extend its NHL-record, season-opening points streak to 22 games.
As regulation was winding down, Kane insisted he didn’t doubt that the balanced Blackhawks would figure out a way to earn at least a point.
“A lot of us want to be the guy to either tie it up or go and win it,” he said. “That’s the best part about the run right now. It seems to be a different guy every night. It’s been a blast.”
The Blackhawks have had 12 players score game-winning goals with Marian Hossa leading the way with three of them and Kane becoming one of three players with a pair of victory-clinching scores.
“It’s amazing,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “In a competitive league, they’re not making it competitive.”
Chicago has earned at least a point in 28 straight games—dating to a March 25, 2012, loss in regulation to Nashville—to tie the second-longest streak in league history.
The Blackhawks have matched Montreal’s multi-season points run from the 1977-78 season and trail only Philadelphia’s streak of 35 straight games with at least a point during the 1979-80 season.
“I don’t think we’re satisfied by what we’ve accomplished so far,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “But we’re definitely excited about where we’re at.”
Corey Crawford was perfect in the shootout and finished with 32 saves to help Chicago win a ninth straight game.
“He had several big saves, particularly right after they scored to go up one,” Quenneville said. “He kept us in there to make it a one-goal game and gave us a chance.”
It looked like Chicago’s sensational streak of success might end when Detroit’s Tomas Tatar broke a scoreless tie early in the third period and Jimmy Howard stopped every puck that came his way.
Kane and Crawford had other ideas.
“We keep finding a way to keep ourselves in the game or win it at the end,” Kane said.
The Red Wings hurt their chances by getting called for delay of game twice toward the end of regulation for putting the puck out of play.
Chicago took advantage of the first of two late power plays with forward Viktor Stalberg getting more of the puck than Detroit defenceman Kyle Quincey did, pushing it to Kane to set up a one-timer that made it 1-1.
“I had a quicker stick than (Quincey) this time,” Stalberg said.
Kane scored from the bottom of the right circle, then pivoted toward the crowd and shouted with joy as he pumped his gloves toward the banner-filled rafters.
“He knew the importance of it to get us to overtime,” Quenneville said.
With a sold-out crowd on its feet for a shootout at the end of an entertaining afternoon of hockey, Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk was denied on a low attempt by Crawford’s pads on the first attempt. Jonathan Toews then went high and couldn’t get a shot past Howard’s glove.
Red Wings rookie Damien Brunner made some nifty moves next, but couldn’t keep the puck and for that, Crawford looked thankful as the two met face to face on the ice.
Kane then stole the show, slowly skating toward Howard and lifting his right skate off the ice twice before flipping a wrist shot past him to make the fans at Joe Louis Arena sigh.
“Kaner, the last few games, has been flying,” Quenneville said. “He’s had the puck a lot and he’s been dangerous, and he’s been a threat. And, he wants to be out there. It’s a good situation to be in.”
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