Saturday, May 28, 2022

Blackhawks Put Up Valiant Effort But Still Fall Short 4-3 To Hurricanes


The Chicago Blackhawks weren’t able to pick up their second win of the season on Wednesday against the Carolina Hurricanes, but they did manage to put together yet another strong effort against one of the top teams (and only unbeaten team) in the NHL. Near the mid-way point of the game, the Blackhawks held a 3-1 lead over the 8-0-0 Hurricanes, and they were ahead 3-2 going into the third period as well. For a team that was struggling to grab any sort of lead a little over a week ago, that’s undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

However, the Blackhawks blew their two-goal lead and wound up losing 4-3 to the Hurricanes, dropping their record down to 1-8-2 through the first 11 games this year. With the losses already closing in on double digits, the ‘moral victories’ are starting to get old. If the final result isn’t a win at this point, then it doesn’t matter much anymore.

“Very disappointing way to lose,” said head coach Jeremy Colliton, clearly frustrated with his team’s performance down the stretch. “It’s a terrible feeling when you put yourselves in a great position, [and then] give them life… We gift-wrapped them an opportunity to get back in the game… hard to watch it happen, hard to be a part of.”

Kane & Cat Carry The Way Early

Coming into Wednesday’s matchup with Chicago, Carolina ranked 1st in the NHL with only 1.5 (!) goals allowed per game. Canes’ goaltender Frederik Andersen — their starter on Wednesday — had surrendered more than one goal in only two of his first seven starts of the season, along with a 7-0-0 record to show for it. Not too shabby.

But Alex DeBrincat managed to beat Andersen on a breakaway just 1:35 into the first period to give the Blackhawks an early 1-0 lead. The Hawks have now scored the first goal in four of the last five games after falling behind 1-0 in the previous six.

Carolina managed to even up the score at 1-1 with a goal from Derek Stepan, but the Blackhawks responded to jump back ahead early in the second period.

After Patrick Kane failed to connect with DeBrincat on a 2-on-1, Riley Stillman ripped a slapshot from the left point, which Kane redirected past Andersen for his fifth goal of the season and fourth in the last two games.

A few minutes later, Mike Hardman forced an offensive-zone turnover and fought off a check from Canes’ defender Brady Skjei, passed to Phillip Kurashev, and then DeBrincat buried the puck into the yawning cage for his second goal of the game. That second line of DeBrincat-Kurashev-Hardman was the Hawks’ most effective trio against Carolina on Wednesday.


Crunch Time Lapses Continue

Unlike their all-important first victory of the season on Monday against Ottawa, the Blackhawks were not able to build upon their lead in the second half of the game vs. the Hurricanes. Instead, the Hawks folded in the face of adversity once again and proved to be incapable of responding with their backs against the wall.

“We have to be able to lock it down, make simple plays and not beat ourselves,” Hawks defenseman Seth Jones said after the game. “That’s what you see happening through these first eleven games. We’re beating ourselves.”

Less than five minutes after DeBrincat potted his second goal of the game, Erik Gustafsson unnecessarily pinched into the offensive zone, which led to Seth Jarvis’ first NHL goal on a breakaway to cut the Blackhawks lead to 3-2. Vintage Gustafsson at his best.

Carolina came out of the second intermission firing and tallied two goals in the first 3:09 to snatch a 4-3 lead.

Just 17 seconds (of course) into the third period, Jesper Fast split Jake McCabe and Connor Murphy on a 3-on-2 to get all alone with Marc-Andre Fleury and tied the score 3-3. It’s been a rough start to McCabe’s career in Chicago (to put it nicely), and another poor decision of his cost the Hawks in crunch time vs. Carolina.

Then, with the Blackhawks on their heels, the Hurricanes quickly capitalized as Martin Necas snuck a shot through Fleury at 3:26 of the third period for the game-winning goal. Fleury came up big on several occasions throughout the night, but that’s one that ‘Flower’ would certainly like to have back.

Powerplay Drops The Ball Late

Despite blowing their 3-1 lead, the Blackhawks had three powerplay chances — including a four-minute opportunity after a double-minor from Ethan Bear — in the final 15 minutes of the game. Coming into Wednesday, the Hawks’ powerplay had recorded a goal in eight of their 10 games and served as one of the few bright spots for a 1-7-2 team. But the Blackhawks came up empty on each of their man advantages late in the game and finished 0-for-5 on the night. Perfect timing.

“It’s such a wasted opportunity,” Colliton said. “If you’re not extremely upset with what went on, I would question that.”

The Blackhawks are back in action on Friday (6:30 pm CT) against the division-rival Winnipeg Jets (5-2-2) at Canada Life Center in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Colliton has already announced that Jujhar Khaira and Stillman will not be able to travel into Canada for the game due to COVID-19 protocols. Nicolas Beaudin was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on Thursday morning to give the Blackhawks six defensemen on their active roster. Tyler Johnson and Isaak Phillips remain in COVID-19 protocol as well.

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