Blackhawks can't maintain momentum in Game 4 loss to Blues

Blackhawks can't maintain momentum in Game 4 loss to Blues

The Blackhawks scored on a second-period power play, an advantage nobody’s certain how they got, to take a 2-1 lead.

It got the United Center cheering. It could have left the St. Louis Blues reeling. But once again the Blues shook off any frustration they felt and started scoring.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice and Brian Elliott stopped 39 of 42 shots as the St. Louis Blues beat the Blackhawks 4-3 in Game 4 of their first-round series on Tuesday night.

The Blues took a 3-1 series lead heading back to St. Louis, where they have the chance to eliminate the Blackhawks in Game 5 on Thursday.

In the end, it was the Blackhawks who looked frustrated. Trailing 4-3 with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Andrew Shaw took a roughing penalty basically taking away any chance the Blackhawks had of tying the game.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead on a power play that was surprising, to say the least.

Jonathan Toews pushed Robby Fabbri into Corey Crawford, who went after Fabbri. The two fought in the corner and other scrums soon ensued. But somehow the Blackhawks ended up with the power play – Fabbri was called for goaltender interference and Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk were called for roughing, while Crawford and Andrew Ladd also got roughing penalties. Duncan Keith’s goal gave the Blackhawks that lead 13:09 into the second period.

“We were in a great spot. We got the momentum, had some zone time and had some great chances in the second period,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Power play and they made a great shot and they’re in the ballgame again. But it’s still a hockey game.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It was still a hockey game when Tarasenko scored his second goal, a power-play effort, to tie the game, 2-2. It soon became a little more one-sided for the Blues. Jaden Schwartz added a power-play goal of his own early in the third period and Alex Steen intercepted a Trevor van Riemsdyk pass and broke free to give the Blues a 4-2 lead.

Duncan Keith scored with about five minutes remaining in regulation but Andrew Shaw took a roughing penalty with just over two minutes remaining in the game. That pretty much sealed it.

“We’ve got to be smart. It’s just makes it tougher on us,” Keith said of the Blackhawks. “We’re trying to compete. It’s tough. I mean, sometimes it’s just, I don’t know. I don’t get into that. Two minutes left in the game, everyone’s battling out there and we’re killing a penalty. I didn’t see the call. It’s tough to comment on it. Shawzy’s battling. He’s battling all year. He competes hard in the playoffs and that’s what we want. That’s what we need out of him. I don’t think we blame him at all. It’s trying to get to the net and they call some things and they don’t. It is what it is.”

Now the Blackhawks are in a tough spot.

Yes, they were down 3-1 in playoff series in 2013 and again in 2014 – they came back to beat the Detroit Red Wings in 2013 but fell to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014. But this team feels different. The Blues seem to be the one in control with the Blackhawks struggling and losing their usual cool. They have a chance to force Game 6 on Thursday. They’ll have to bring more than they did on Tuesday to do that.

“Gotta play smart, gotta be disciplined,” Quenneville said. “Gotta play the right way and try to be stingy.”

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut


Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson played for the Blackhawks for 10 years and won three Stanley Cups with the team so his return to the United Center was a big deal.

The defenseman, now with the Arizona Coyotes, made his return to Chicago in Thursday's game. The Blackhawks had a tribute video for him during the game and the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the video.

He was teary-eyed after getting the warm reception.

Hjalmarsson was traded by the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin after the 2016-17 season. He played against the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 and again on Feb. 12 last season, but both games were in Arizona.

Injuries limited Hjalmarsson to 48 games last season and he missed Arizona's only trip to the United Center last season, which came in December.

Watch the video above to see Hjalmarsson's tribute and reaction.