LAS VEGAS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday:
1. Running out of answers
The Blackhawks are running out of ways to explain their slow starts and so are we. Eventually they're going to break through. But it hasn't happened yet, and for the ninth straight game they allowed the first goal.
Not only that, it was the sixth time over that stretch where they allowed the first goal within the first 2:11. Reilly Smith scored nine seconds into a Vegas power play at 1:28 to put his team up 1-0 and Deryk Engelland made it 2-0 at 8:14 when his shot from the point got past Corey Crawford, who was screened by Jonathan Toews.
At this point, it's more important for the Blackhawks not to allow the second goal rather than the first because it's piled up too many times over this stretch.
"Regardless of how things were going, I think we've played some pretty good hockey for the majority of the last two games," Toews said. "But even when you play well, every team is good and there's no guarantee you're going to win, so we've got to be more consistent with that effort and that speed. We had the pace that we needed tonight.
"Again, they score first, but at least we know that if we give up a few goals or if we go down we can find our way back into games, it's not the end of the world. But starts are big for us and at the end of the day, keep building on our game, improving our process as a team and we're bound to get over this hump. Obviously it's a tough one right now."
2. Earning your bounces
After falling behind 2-0 (again), the Blackhawks pushed back (again). It felt like the same script in Anaheim. Only this time, they earned their bounces.
The Blackhawks had 35 shot attempts in the second period compared to the
Golden Knights' 16, and responded back with a pair of goals thanks to Toews and Dylan Strome. And both of them got fortunate breaks, which they deserved.
Toews cut the Blackhawks' deficit to 2-1 exactly four minutes into the period when he banked a shot off Marc-Andre Fleury. It was a similar situation for Strome, who scored from a bad angle — outside the left faceoff circle — that Fleury also would've liked to have back to pull the Blackhawks into a 2-2 tie.
"We showed some heart there," Duncan Keith said. "That was good. Obviously it's a tough building to play in. They came out with a lead and we fought back and got ourselves into it. It was anybody's game going into the third."
3. A short-lived lead
Going into Thursday's game, the Blackhawks hadn't led at any point in a game since Nov. 18 against the Minnesota Wild. Artem Anisimov changed that when he pounced on a loose puck and scored on a breakaway to put the Blackhawks ahead 3-2 for their third unanswered goal at 7:14 of the final frame.
It was their first lead in a span of 527:14 regulation minutes, according to NBC Sports Chicago's stats guru Chris Kamka. But it was short-lived as Vegas responded 41 seconds later.
"It's frustrating," Brent Seabrook said. "You got to work so hard to score goals here and it seems like we give them up pretty quick the other way. The biggest shift is a shift after a goal, whether it's one of their goals or one of our goals. ... Giving up that one and getting it tied again and then the turnover, that was obviously on me. I got to better in the situation."
4. Two goals in 12 seconds
The Blackhawks have been working toward preventing opponents from adding a second goal so quickly after the first. Usually that's happened in the opening frame.
But it trickled into the third period when the Golden Knights scored two goals in 12 seconds, the second of which Crawford felt he was interfered with. But after further review, officials determined there was not enough to wave off the goal and it turned out to be the game winner.
"I'm disappointed because we played really hard to battle back and we're in good position," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Then obviously it falls apart on us. Disappointing because I want to see the guys get rewarded when we play hard. Clearly, we don't do enough. We have to be better than we are if we expect to get results. But I still feel for the guys."