Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Thursday:
1. A better effort, but not enough
The Blackhawks turned in a better 60-minute effort than their previous game against Carolina, but there weren't enough stretches where they took control of the game and they found themselves playing catch-up.
The Lightning struck first in the opening frame and the Blackhawks eventually evened it up at 1-1 at the 8:27 mark of the third period, but the Lightning scored twice in a span of 2:39 and later added a third on an empty-netter to ice the game.
The Blackhawks failed to hold a lead at any point for the second straight game and they've dropped back-to-back games in regulation after winning four in a row.
"I think it was a better game tonight," Jonathan Toews said. "Even on nights that we play well, we're not going to win every night, so I think we just fell a little bit short in all aspects of the game."
2. Lightning win special teams battle
The Lightning came into the game with the second-ranked power play, converting at a 29.6 percent clip. Nikita Kucherov was out because of an upper-body injury and Steven Stamkos didn't play in the final two periods, but the Lightning still had success in that department.
They scored on their first power-play opportunity of the game to open the scoring, and finished 1-for-3 for a 33.3 percent success rate. The Blackhawks changed up their power play units, overloading the first one and putting Kirby Dach on the second, but went 0-for-3 on the night.
"We had a few good chances," Dylan Strome said of the power play. "Kaner had a one-timer in the first and we had a few good looks later on. Not good enough though, I don't think. Just got to be a little bit better, a little sharper."
3. An even contest across the board
From a statistical standpoint, this was as even a game as the Blackhawks have played against an opponent this season. The Lightning led in shot attempts (65-63) and shots on goal (35-34), but the 5-on-5 scoring chances (23-23) and 5-on-5 high-danger chances (8-8) were exactly the same.
The Blackhawks were outshot 23-16 in the first two periods, but turned the tables in the third period by outshooting the Lightning 12-4. The Blackhawks scored twice in the final frame, but the Lightning capitalized on their chances.
"We did some good things tonight," Patrick Kane said. "Obviously would have been nice to get some points here in the last two games, but yeah, we've got to keep playing the way we won all those games and went on the nice stretch with. Stay with it. We know the recipe for success and keep building."
4. Dressing seven defensemen
The Blackhawks didn't reveal their final lineup until after warmups, and head coach Jeremy Colliton elected to roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen — like the Lightning — for the first time this season to get Slater Koekkoek into the rotation against his former team. Dominik Kubalik was a healthy scratch for the second time this season.
Kane double-shifted in Kubalik's spot and logged 27:38 of ice time. Kane extended his point streak to 11 games and recorded his 600th career NHL assist on Strome's goal in the third period. He also finished with a game-high eight shots on goal.
"We wanted to get Koekkoek in, it's his old team," Colliton said of dressing seven defensemen. "Think it was the right thing to do. Kaner's playing really well, opportunity to give him a little bit more. Ultimately, I don't think we had enough guys going up front. It's our job to regroup, get some rest tomorrow and come up with a more complete effort Saturday."
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