In a case anyone was wondering whether there might be a little post-streak letdown for the Chicago Blackhawks after their record 24-game streak of earning at least a point from the start of the season came to an end against Colorado on Friday, the short answer is yes.
The Blackhawks, blasted 6-2 by the Avs, responded by allowing the Edmonton Oilers to score four times in less than a 10-minute span of the first period Sunday night at the Madhouse on Madison as Chicago embarks on something quite unfamiliar: a losing streak. To their credit -- and because these were the Edmonton Oilers, after all -- Chicago made things more than a little interesting, closing the gap to 6-5 but couldn’t get the equalizer as they lost for the second time in a row.
Although starter Ray Emery lasted only 9:19 Sunday night, allowing three goals on nine shots, he didn’t get tagged with the loss as Corey Crawford earned that distinction. Thus Emery’s record remains unblemished at 10-0-0.
Whether it was lunch-bag letdown for Chicago or not, credit must go to the Oilers, who are nearing the end of an arduous nine-game trip necessitated by the Canadian curling championships being held in Edmonton. The Oil were coming off a 6-0 blasting at the hands of the Nashville Predators on Friday night and looked like a beaten group after that contest. Head coach Ralph Krueger acknowledged there was going to have to be some soul-searching after producing such an embarrassing effort.
Yet bounce back the Oilers did, led by Sam Gagner, who scored twice in the first period to stake Edmonton to the early lead.
We spoke with Gagner in Nashville and, while it seems impossible the 23-year-old is in his sixth campaign with the Oilers, he is eager to be a leader with a team that is chock-a-block with raw talent but still looking for the leadership glue that will help them translate that talent to results.
Gagner leads the Oilers with 23 points in 25 games. Edmonton closes out its nine-game road odyssey Tuesday in Colorado.
Chicago, meanwhile, gets a chance to rest and regroup; they won’t play again this week until a visit to Columbus Thursday. We’d say that’s a well-earned rest, although here’s the curious part of the Blackhawks’ start: With Anaheim earning its 11th straight home win Sunday with a 4-2 victory over St. Louis that tied a franchise record, the Ducks pulled to within six points of Western Conference-leading Chicago with two games in hand.