Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on Friday:
1. Blackhawks fight back three times, but fall short
The Blackhawks trailed four different times, and didn't hold a lead at any point in the game. They responded to Colorado's first three goals, going back-and-forth with their division foe. But they couldn't answer the fourth time as the Avalanche scored with 5:22 left and sealed the deal with an empty-netter in the final seconds.
The Blackhawks were encouraged with the way they played, but were disappointed with the outcome because they thought they deserved better against a team they needed two points from. And they did.
"It is what it is," Jonathan Toews said. "The points are important whether it’s the end of the regular season or near the end of the regular season or even playoffs. We wanted two points. Winning’s all that matters, so I think you do what you have to do to stay in games and find ways to win. We’re right there with them. They played a good game, but I think it was probably one of our best efforts collectively in the last little bit. So a lot of good things, and I think if we have that energy, we’re gonna get better results in the next few games here.”
2. Special teams plays big factor
The Blackhawks and Avalanche each committed four minor penalties. For 12:49 of the 60 minutes, there was some sort of man advantage. And it proved to be a huge part of the game.
The Blackhawks killed off the first three penalties and allowed only four shots on goal during those six minutes, but the Avalanche converted on their fourth opportunity (the lone shot on goal on that power play).
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks went 2-for-4 on with the man advantage, and nearly added a third goal in the final minute of the game but fell short. It was one the more well-rounded special teams performances by the Blackhawks this season.
"We had to rely on our power play a couple times, so it was nice that we came through there," said Patrick Kane, who extended his point streak to 20 games and goal streak to five, and also tied a franchise record with 13 shots on goal. "But that’s the thing I like about this group and our team. No matter what the score, no matter how we start or what’s happening in the middle of the game anything like that, we’re always in the game, there’s always a chance to turn the thing around. I like that about our group."
3. A complete effort but no reward
The Blackhawks have had some rocky starts as of late. Friday was not one of them. And it continued throughout the entire game
At even strength, the Blackhawks led in shot attempts (56-40), shots on goal (31-25), scoring chances (29-20) and high-danger chances (12-11), according to naturalstattrick.com. They were ahead in all four categories, except the one that mattered the most and that's the final score.
That's the hard part to swallow. The Blackhawks elevated their game in a playoff-type atmosphere and turned in one of their most complete efforts in a while, but it was one of those nights where the result doesn't reflect it. And it's unfortunate because it was a big four-point swing in Colorado's direction.
"Of course we would have liked to win," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It's important points, it was an important game, head-to-head against a team we're battling with. We were really good I thought. It's one of our better efforts of the year and certainly recently. Sometimes the results don't go your way, but the challenge is to reproduce [at] that level and I think if we do, we'll get our fair share of points."
4. Standings impact
For a brief moment on Wednesday, the Blackhawks saw their name above the playoff line. It made for an exciting build-up to Friday's game against Colorado, which later took over that second spot from Chicago.
But after Friday's regulation loss, the Blackhawks fell two points behind the Avalanche, who have a game in hand, and three points behind the Minnesota Wild, who have won back-to-back games. Even the Arizona Coyotes are above the Blackhawks because of points percentage, tied at 61 points but hold a game in hand.
That's why this game was so important. But good news for the Blackhawks? They have two more meetings against the Avalanche this season, and one more against the Coyotes. But more importantly, they have to get right back to work for a divisional showdown against the Dallas Stars on Sunday afternoon.
"It’s only gonna get tougher and tougher as we go along here," Toews said. "We’ve got some tough road games coming up, so obviously we want to take it one game at a time. There’s nowhere to run or hide now. I think every team’s gonna be at their best and it’s a fun time of year to be right in the mix and be playing this type of hockey. I think the guys raised their play tonight, and we know there’s always room for improvement.”
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.