Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night:
1. Cam Ward left out to dry
The Blackhawks had a three-day break following a three-games-in-four-days stretch to open the year and one of the things they stressed during that additional practice time was tightening things up defensively. They allowed 34 high-danger scoring chances (28 at 5-on-5) through the first three games and Ward had a .647 save percentage on those shots. But limiting those is more important than Ward trying to bail out his teammates.
The Blackhawks gave up eight high-danger scoring chances in the first period alone and Ward stopped all of them, which was an encouraging sign. He was in a great rhythm and stood on his head all night.
In total, the Blackhawks gave up 23 high-danger scoring chances (which is 11 fewer than they gave up through the first three games combined), 37 scoring chances in all situations and a season-high 46 shots on goal. That's way too much to overcome for any goaltender.
2. Top line stays hot
The Blackhawks continued to get contributions from their top line and it didn't take long for them to get going. Jonathan Toews connected with Alex DeBrincat 10:07 into the game to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead and on the very next shift, Dominik Kahun scored his first career NHL goal on a beautiful snipe that was assisted by DeBrincat and Toews.
It's the third multi-point game of the season for Toews and second for DeBrincat, both of whom have started the campaign with four-game point streaks. Kahun also has one goal and two assists in his past two games.
The trio was the only line to finish with positive possession numbers in a game that Minnesota dominated in that department, recording 69 shot attempts to the Blackhawks' 46 at even strength.
This is exactly the production the Blackhawks had envisioned from their first line this season, even though they're doing the majority of the heavy lifting. At some point it's going to cool off and the Blackhawks going to need depth scoring, but they're setting the tone early on.
3. Power play is finally on the board, but allows crucial shorthanded goal late
After starting the season 0-for-10, the Blackhawks changed up their personnel heading into Minnesota and finally cashed in on their fourth power play opportunity of the night to snap their drought. DeBrincat was moved to the high slot on the first unit and that's exactly where he potted his second goal of the game, off a feed from Patrick Kane.
But the killer happened in the final minute of regulation. The Blackhawks were up 4-3 and had a man advantage, but allowed a shorthanded goal with 23.0 seconds left that essentially forced overtime for the fourth straight game. Jason Zucker, who had a game-high 10 shots on goal, scored his second of the game for the winner.
While the Blackhawks certainly have to be happy about picking up another point, it's difficult to swallow when you realize it was essentially a three-point swing in the end against a Central Division opponent and these are the games you look back at at the end of the season as ones that got away.
4. Alexandre Fortin stands out in NHL debut
With Andreas Martinsen (back injury) out of the lineup, Fortin was called up from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League and was rewarded for his solid training camp by getting thrown into the fire right away. He skated on the third line with Artem Anisimov and Chris Kunitz, and was noticeable early on.
On his first shift, Fortin recorded two shot attempts (one blocked, one missed) and a takeaway in 53 seconds. Later on in the second period he generated a late scoring chance but was denied by Devan Dubnyk.
Fortin finished with a team-low 8:49 of ice time and was on the ice for eight shot attempts for and 11 against.