Patrick Kane extends point streak, but Blackhawks fall short against Avalanche
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The Blackhawks knew how vital their game Friday against the Avalanche was in terms of their chances to earn one of the two wild-card berths in the Western Conference.
Though they lost 5-3 at the United Center, the Hawks’ message was clear: They’re not going down without a fight.
Every time the Avalanche took a lead, the Hawks fought back. Center Dylan Strome scored a power-play goal and right wing Patrick Kane extended his league-best point streak to 20 games with his 39th goal to help the Hawks tie the score twice in the second period. In the third, right wing Alex DeBrincat scored his 34th goal on a power play to tie the score at 3.
And on the Hawks’ final power play with less than two minutes left, coach Jeremy Colliton pulled goalie Collin Delia for a six-on-four advantage, though the Avalanche scored into an empty net to seal the victory.
‘‘We wanted two points,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘Winning’s all that matters. . . . We’re right there with them. They played a good game, but I think it was probably one of our best efforts collectively in the last little bit.’’
Kane also applauded his teammates’ relentless effort.
‘‘No matter what the score, no matter how we start or what’s happening in the middle of the game, anything like that, we’re always in the game,’’ Kane said. ‘‘There’s always a chance to turn the thing around. I like that about our group.’’
The loss left the Hawks three points behind the Wild, who beat the Red Wings 3-2, and two behind the Avalanche and the idle Coyotes in the battle for the last wild-card spot. The Avalanche and Coyotes also have a game in hand.
The Hawks have another big game Sunday, when they host the Stars. The Stars hold the top wild-card spot in the conference, four points ahead of the Hawks.
‘‘That’s just going to be the way it is down the stretch,’’ Kane said. ‘‘Pretty much every game is going to be huge for us.’’
A little more than two months ago, the Hawks were virtually out of the postseason conversation. They were one of the worst teams in the league with a 9-18-5 record Dec. 11. But then a switch flipped, and the Hawks became fun again.
As recently as Jan. 19, the Hawks were 10 points out of a playoff spot. But they’ve clawed their way back into contention by ‘‘fighting like dogs,” as Colliton likes to say.
Kane said Colliton, who replaced fired Joel Quenneville in early November, deserves a lot of credit for the Hawks’ turnaround.
‘‘He brought with him a game plan,’’ Kane said. ‘‘Usually if we follow that game plan and bring the effort, we’re pretty successful on most nights. . . . [Even when] we don’t have our best, we’re still able to keep ourselves in games and maybe come out on top at the end of them.’’
And if the Hawks play with urgency, like they did against the Avalanche, there’s a good chance they’ll continue to be a part of the playoff conversation.
‘‘It’s only gonna get tougher and tougher as we go along here,’’ Toews said. ‘‘We want to take it one game at a time. There’s nowhere to run or hide now.
‘‘Every team’s gonna be at their best, and I think it’s a fun time of year to be right in the mix and be playing this type of hockey. The guys raised their play tonight, and we know there’s always room for improvement.’’