SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Blackhawks had hoped the weekend break would have its desired effect, that they would get back to playing the way they did earlier this season. Instead, it was another game lost in the waning minutes.
Dennis Rasmussen scored his fourth goal of the season but Tomas Hertl scored the game-winning goal with 2:03 remaining in regulation as the San Jose Sharks beat the Blackhawks 3-1 on Tuesday night.
The Blackhawks, now on a three-game losing streak, remain in second in the Western Conference, six points behind the Minnesota Wild. The Wild also still have three games in hand. In the Central Division the Blackhawks still have a nine-point edge over the Nashville Predators, who lost to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
But this was the latest opportunity the Blackhawks had to get some points, any points, only to come up empty.
"Two minutes to go there, you just want to get it to overtime and look for the extra point there. Three games in a row we've given up some points, whether it's one, two, three, four, five or six. But you get zero it's a tough pill to swallow," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You have to make sure you're not scored upon at any time, particularly that time of the game."
There were a few odd bounces in this one, and the Sharks capitalized on one late. The puck bounced off the back boards, off Corey Crawford and to Hertl, who scored for a 2-1 Sharks lead.
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
"I don't know. I don't think we want to chalk it up to a fluky bounce. But it was a bounce and they ended up getting it in," Duncan Keith said. "Tough way to lose the game, last two minutes."
We've talked plenty about what the Blackhawks have given up in third periods – they lost leads and games to both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Winnipeg Jets prior to the All-Star break. But it's also what they haven't done on their end. The Blackhawks' offense has gone quiet, not scoring a third-period goal since it had two against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 22.
"I don't know how much we really gave up but I think we can generate more offense and obviously going into the third period we gotta bear down and keep it simple and just find a way to get it done," Keith said.
Patrick Marleau gave the Sharks a second-period lead with his power-play goal, the 499th goal of his career. Marleau had been denied a goal earlier in the game when the Blackhawks reviewed for offside. About three minutes after Marleau's good goal, Rasmussen scored his fourth of the season.
"Yeah, I feel like we had a good play there, Seabs [Brent Seabrook] and [Richard] Panik were good in the defensive zone. I got an opportunity and it was lucky to go in," Rasmussen said. "It still feels really tough when we end up losing. That's all that matters."
Yes, the Blackhawks are struggling to get any points right now. The third periods, so good for them for so long, are now becoming an issue. What their giving up is one thing. What they're producing – or in this case, not – is just as problematic.
"I didn't mind our games prior to the break except the third periods in both of those games," Quenneville said. "Tonight, we weren't bad. But we need to be better."