Blackhawks extend win streak to nine

The Canadian Press

MONTREAL—Chicago goalie Corey Crawford says it never gets old playing in his hometown in front of family and friends at the Bell Centre.
Crawford, of nearby Chateauguay, Que., put on a show for them last night with 39 saves as the Blackhawks edged the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 for their ninth-straight win.
“I grew up here, I used to come watch games here, and it’s still kind of surreal stepping onto the ice,” noted Crawford.
“I don’t think that’ll change anytime soon.”
Crawford has not lost in regulation time in six career meetings with Montreal (4-0-2).
First-period goals by Jonathan Toews and Ryan Garbutt were all the Blawkhawks (29-13-4) needed as Crawford shut the door despite a spirited Canadiens’ comeback bid through the second and third periods.
His biggest test came in the second period when he made four saves in rapid succession in one hectic sequence.
Paul Byron scored in the first period for Montreal (23-18-3), who are in a 5-14 tailspin since Dec. 14 due mostly to an inability to put pucks in the net.
It was the ninth time in their recent slump they scored one or fewer goals.
“The effort was there,” said coach Michel Therrien, who is as baffled as his players at the scoring drought.
“We got lots of pucks to the net, lots of chances, but Crawford was very good.”
It was one of Montreal’s better games in recent weeks, although a slow start cost them. They skated hard, crowded the front of the net, and shot often.
But no one is beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks these days.
Chicago, which has not lost since Dec. 27 against Carolina, will try to make it 10-straight tonight in Toronto.
“There are a lot of factors but it seems like our team is just coming together,” Crawford said of the streak.
“We’re not taking as many penalties.
“We’re playing a simple game with speed and skill,” he added. “And there’s a lot more chemistry throughout the lineup.”
The win put Joel Quenneville into sole possession of second place all-time in coaching victories with 783—one more than Al Arbour although still well behind leader Scotty Bowman’s 1,244.
“Scotty’s safe,” quipped Quenneville.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Toews, who has won three Stanley Cups under Quenneville in Chicago.
“There’s been a lot of great coaches and the amount of wins he has is so rare.
“To be part of it is something special,” he remarked. “I’ve played for him pretty much my entire career and it means a lot to be part of something like that.
“The success we’ve had in the playoffs goes with it.”
Shots were 40-33 in favour of the Canadiens.
The Canadiens next play tomorrow in St. Louis, then face the Blackhawks again Sunday in Chicago.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Winnipeg topped Nashville 5-4 (OT), Washington beat Vancouver 4-1, San Jose edged Edmonton 2-1 (SO), and the N.Y. Islanders downed the N.Y. Rangers 3-1.
Carolina dumped St. Louis 4-1, Colorado blanked New Jersey 3-0, and Detroit nipped Arizona 3-2 (OT).