That first shift after giving up a goal. Hockey coaches stress how important it is. Hockey players know how important it is. But for the second time in as many games, the Blackhawks' first shift after giving up a goal has hurt them, and on Thursday it hurt them twice.
The Winnipeg Jets scored two goals in 42 seconds in the first period and another two in 33 seconds in the third period as they came back to beat the Blackhawks 5-3 on Thursday. It was another frustrating night for the Blackhawks, who have now lost two games in a row when leading entering the third period. Prior to Tuesday, they had gone 78-0-5 in those regular-season games.
The Blackhawks enter the All-Star break second in the Western Conference, four points behind Minnesota, which won again on Thursday night and has three games in hand.
The losses are one thing. How they're happening is another. The Blackhawks giving up pairs of goals in a brief amount of time is getting alarming. They did the same on Tuesday against Tampa Bay, the Lightning scoring two in 30 seconds en route to a victory.
"Tonight it was bad luck, two goals after goals that are just unlucky bounces off your own guys and they end up in the back of the net. I don't know what you say about stuff like that. It just happens sometimes," Scott Darling said. "But obviously you'd like to try and have a good start the next shift and try to get the puck into the other end, but that's what happened tonight."
It was another game in which the Blackhawks outshot their opponent early and still trailed. The Jets were up 2-0 less than seven minutes into the game thanks to Patrik Laine's power play goal and Shawn Mattias' goal 42 seconds later. The Blackhawks nevertheless chipped away at that.
Duncan Keith scored just five seconds into the Blackhawks' first power play of the night. Nick Schmaltz scored four minutes into the second to tie it 2-2 and Tanner Kero scored later in the second to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead.
Then came the latter minutes of the third period and another quick-scoring moment. Andrew Copp tied it with 4:03 remaining and Bryan Little put the Jets up 4-3 just 33 seconds later.
"If we do give up a goal we've gotta be better on the next shift. When they're scoring they're getting chances on the next shift and capitalizing on more mistakes," Schmaltz said. "I don't know if it's not [being] ready for the next shift, because that's one of the most important shifts is after they score a goal. We can pay more attention to that and just tighten up defensively, especially in the third period. We've had a couple of leads and let them slip away, so hopefully we can turn that around, because we need to turn those games into points, for sure."
Mark Scheifele added an empty-net goal with 2:03 remaining in regulation to seal it.
The Blackhawks can't do anything about the points that got away from them heading into the All-Star break. They've got quite the road trip coming up following the respite. The first shift after a goal is critical. The Blackhawks have suffered lapses on them too often lately.
"I still think we were fine on the other end, we had the puck and were dangerous in certain areas. but we have to make it tougher in what we're giving up," coach Joel Quenneville said. "There were some positives in both games [vs. Tampa and Winnipeg] but definitely an awful taste now."