By Chris Kuc
DENVER – Soaring when they hit the Mile High City, the Blackhawks were brought back down 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 bad in doing it as they were hammered 6-2 by the Avalanche on Friday night at Pepsi Center in Denver.
After a first half of the season during which they could do no wrong, everything fell apart for the Hawks against the Avs, and 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.
Losing puck battles, failing in the faceoff circle and looking winded during their sixth game in 9 nights, the Hawks fell to 21-1-3 in 2013.
It was their first defeat in regulation since March 25, 2012 against the Predators.
The Hawks actually jumped in front early in the opening period on a goal by Jonathan Toews, but the Avs– who looked a step quicker than the Hawks all game– mounted an offensive attack that stunned goaltender Corey Crawford as Colorado reeled off five consecutive goals by five different players.
Matt Duchene had a goal and three assists, Paul Stastny and PA Parenteau each had a goal and two assists, Ryan O’Reilly a goal and an assist and John Mitchell also scored for Colorado, which avenged a 3-2 loss to the Hawks on Wednesday night at the United Center. Toews and Bryan Bickell scored for the Hawks but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Semyon Varlamov earned the win in goal for the Avalanche while Crawford took the loss, lasting two periods before he was replaced by Ray Emery to start the third.
Toews opened the scoring in the first off a pretty passing play with Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa. The captain 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 shot by Duchene. Colorado 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 Colorado 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 a short time later.
The Hawks’ malaise began during the morning skate and Quenneville let his team know it with some colorful language to get it to pick up the pace.
“We don’t practice very often so when you’re out there and it’s just ordinary, missing passes or whatever, [it’s to] just to get their focus – let’s go,” Quenneville said.
The Hawks began the second half of their season with the knowledge they would be without forward Patrick Sharp, who is sidelined with what a source said is an injured shoulder. Coach Quenneville said is “probably out 3 to 4 weeks.” The veteran was checked along the boards by the Avalanche’s Ryan O’Byrne during Wednesday’s game.
Hossa, who did not play Wednesday night after being a late scratch, said he was sidelined with an upper-body injury that was “not at all a concussion.
“It was something else,” Hossa said following the Hawks’ morning skate. “Right now, I feel much better and sometimes only two days just not practicing [and] taking off helps.”
Shaw left the second period of Wednesday night’s game after taking an elbow to the chin from the Avs’ Stastny and did not return due to precautionary measures.
“I’m perfectly fine,” Shaw said. “I’m just excited to get another win here on the road. I feel fine. It was precautionary. I feel 100 percent and ready to go.”
Frolik missed two games with the flu and traveled to Denver on Thursday night, hours after the team arrived.