Eighteen seconds. It was a time span the Blackhawks would like to replay, forget, something.
Because in 18 seconds the Los Angeles Kings took a lead their goaltender made sure the Blackhawks wouldn’t get near challenging.
Kris Versteeg had a goal and an assist against his former team and Jonathan Quick stopped all 32 shots he saw as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Blackhawks 5-0 on Monday night. The Blackhawks, who have won just one of their last five games (1-3-1), remain in third place in the Central Division with 88 points. The first-place Dallas Stars (91 points) were idle and the second-place St. Louis Blues (also 91 points) lost to the Calgary Flames.
Quick was big early when the Blackhawks got nine shots on their first two power plays. He stayed strong throughout, and the Kings gave him plenty of offense on the other side.
Corey Crawford allowed five goals on 25 shots.
The Blackhawks did exactly what they wanted to in those first three minutes, firing five shots on their first power play. But just 17 seconds after that power play ended, Versteeg scored his first goal since being traded to the Kings; just 18 seconds after that, Milan Lucic’s goal made it 2-0.
Those few seconds, and the mistakes that occurred on them, hurt.
“Yeah, certainly didn’t help,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I liked the start, we collided with each other off the faceoff, fortunate bounce off two skates right to Steeger, and then the next one we give them a semi odd-man break, we’re down 2-0 right out of the gate. That’s exactly how you don’t want to begin a game. We couldn’t get one to get energy going.”
The Blackhawks weren’t good at either end of the ice in this one. They struggled to do anything offensively. Part of that was Quick. Part of that is the Blackhawks still not finding enough production from other lines, especially now that the second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane have gone through a cool streak.
“Couple quick goals we give up and after that everything snowballs in the wrong direction for us,” Jonathan Toews said. “We couldn’t help our goaltender. Crow’s been unreal for us all year and these two games we’ve kind of hung him out to try. Collectively as a team, everyone’s to blame. At the end of the day, tough couple of games.”
The Blackhawks have had a tough time finding consistency for some time now. They went on a 12-game winning streak in late December/January. They’re 9-10-2 since. That’s a tough pill to swallow for a team looking to stay atop the Central Division.
“We’ve had a tougher schedule, we’ve had some tough games. During this stretch our penalty killing hasn’t been great. Some nights it could’ve won us some games, getting the job done,” Quenneville said. “But that [winning streak] was a stretch where we made a lot of hay and put ourselves in a great spot. Now we’re not taking advantage of it, which is disappointing.”
The Blackhawks are still in the Central Division title hunt, despite these games. Still, they realize they need to be playing better hockey, and they need to start playing it now.
“You go in stretches where you win 12 in a row and we have this stretch now. We obviously want to shore that up before the playoffs and make sure we’re going in feeling consistent about our game,” Kane said. “We’ve been in a few of these games where they’ve been blowouts and we’ve been on the wrong side of them. We need to get rid of that, too.”