The United Center was buzzing early on Tuesday night, with the Blackhawks playing there for the first time in about two weeks.
Problem was the Blackhawks weren’t buzzing at the start. And while they had their chances here or there, it was another game where they couldn’t muster enough.
Patrick Kane’s power-play goal extended his point streak to 20 games, but the Blackhawks didn’t have enough outside of that in a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Corey Crawford stopped 34 of 36 shots and Duncan Keith added an assist, giving him a four-game point streak.
It was a frustrating return home for the Blackhawks, who had the last two days off – traveling back home on Sunday – but didn’t have enough energy at the start or enough finish at the end.
The Blackhawks and Wild were tied 1-1 to start the third period, with the Wild beginning the final frame much like they had the first – with great scoring chances off Blackhawks gaffes. They broke through when Ryan Suter scored off Mikael Granlund’s rebound with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation.
“The start was ordinary. But Crow kept us in there and we were fine,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Good pace in the second period, killing that six-minute [power-play] stretch at the end put us in a good spot in the third period. You get an offensive-zone faceoff that ends up in your net, those are tough ones.”
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Much like their last three games, the Blackhawks didn’t have their best puck possession or their usual amount of time in their opponent’s zone. They continue to struggle with line consistency – Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Kane once again had the best chances and were accumulating themost time in the offensive zone.
“We got more chances than we generally do against that team. At the same time you look back at the last three games, we’re back to where we were when we began that stretch on the road when we weren’t very productive,” Quenneville said. “That one line’s been great, consistent and effective. We don’t want to change how we have to play, we just need some finish.”
Not surprisingly, Kane had the finish again on Tuesday. His goal 5:21 into the second period tied the game and brought him to within one game of tying the franchise record for a point streak (set by Bobby Hull inDecember 1971-January 1972). The Blackhawks sometimes struggle in that first game back home after the Circus Trip but again, they had two days away from the ice coming into this one.
“Yeah, for whatever reason, you don’t really know why, coming off the time change or whatever it may be. I think everyone had that in the back of [his] head coming into tonight’s game,” Kane said. “But when you have two days to get ready to get back at it, there’s really no excuse not to have a better effort there.”
The Blackhawks thought they were getting somewhere after their victory in San Jose. They even took momentum out of their come-from-behind victory in Anaheim, even though they were outplayed for most of that game. On Tuesday, however, they were back to generating little and giving up one too many.
“It’s different things throughout the game,” Keith said. “At the end of the day, I think they probably came ready to play a little better than we did, outworked us in certain areas. So we can look at all different things but we could’ve been better."