Blackhawks

Blackhawks squander three-goal lead, fall to Avalanche in overtime

Blackhawks squander three-goal lead, fall to Avalanche in overtime

DENVER – Scott Darling didn’t have much time to think on Tuesday night. It was all react, all the time, considering how the Colorado Avalanche came at him consistently, and with quality opportunities.

He just about helped the Blackhawks eke one out. But on their 51st shot of the night, the Avalanche got the winner.

Darling stopped 47 shots and Artemi Panarin scored his 30th goal of the season but the Blackhawks blew a big lead en route to a 4-3 overtime loss to the Avalanche on Tuesday. The Blackhawks had a 3-0 edge midway through this one but the Avalanche scored two short-handed goals on them before the second period ended.

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they couldn’t quell the Avalanche in overtime, either.

Erik Johnson scored the overtime winner for the Avalanche. The 51 shots were certainly the most the Blackhawks have given up this season. Couple the quality factor of a lot of those shots, and it proved too much.

“Lot of grade-A opportunities. Scotty kept us in the game. They could’ve easily had a lot more goals than they did,” said Ryan Hartman, who scored his 19th goal of the season. “He got us into overtime but we couldn’t finish for him.”

The Blackhawks were without Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was back in Chicago (he and his wife are expecting another child), and Duncan Keith, who got the night off. That may explain some of the quality shots the Avalanche got against the Blackhawks. Thanks to Darling’s great first period, none of them proved a problem.

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All started well in the second period.

Panarin’s goal with 14 seconds remaining on their first power play gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead 28 seconds into the second. Hartman scored his 19th of the season and Marcus Kruger scored on a breakaway to put the Blackhawks up 3-0.

But the Blackhawks’ next two power plays had more mistakes than opportunities, and the Avalanche took advantage. Matt Duchene finished a 2-on-1 shorthanded effort to cut the Blackhawks’ lead to 3-1 and Gabriel Landeskog’s wraparound shorthanded goal brought the Avalanche to within one.

“We’re playing just OK in that second period and we get a couple of fortunate breaks, go up 3-0, and give up two shorthanded, careless goals that got them back rolling,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Nice play on the third goal and anything can happen after that, but we were very, very loose tonight and didn’t play the way we’d like to.”

The Avalanche continued to pressure the Blackhawks to start the third and they tied it when Mikhail Grigorenko tipped Duchene’s pass up and over Darling.

The Blackhawks have talked about playing well despite these games not meaning anything, but they have done it only in pockets in their last two games. Missing their top defensive pair didn’t help, and the Blackhawks will probably rest a few more guys in the final two regular-season games. Credit the Avalanche, a team that’s been out of the postseason for some time, for pushing the Blackhawks.

There’s not a concern. But there’s definitely a need to play better.

“We’ll move forward,” Quenneville said. “Whether it was the effort, sloppiness, there were some good things. Trying to get a little bit tighter in our responsibilities without the puck, that’s probably the focus.”

Blakchawks Talk Podcast: What should the Blackhawks be asking for this holiday season?

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USA TODAY

Blakchawks Talk Podcast: What should the Blackhawks be asking for this holiday season?

On the latest Hawks Talk podcast, Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Charlie Roumeliotis discuss Corey Crawford's concussion, Henri Jokiharju leaving the team to play in World Juniors, how the Blackhawks defensemen stack up, and what gift do the Blackhawks need this holiday season?

01:30 Corey Crawford's concussion

04:00 You can't use Crawford's injury as an excuse this season

06:10 Hawks able to get a look at Collin Delia

07:00 Henri Jokiharju to play for Finland in World Juniors

10:30 Erik Gustafsson's potential

14:00 Strome and Kane playing on the same line

17:00 What have the guys seen from Dylan Sikura

21:30 Tough back to back games at Dallas and Colorado

24:30 Guys give their holiday gift to the Blackhawks

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks turn in complete effort, wrap up homestand with win

Four takeaways: Blackhawks turn in complete effort, wrap up homestand with win

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators at the United Center on Sunday:

1. The Full 60

The Blackhawks have been preaching playing a full 60 minutes ever since Jeremy Colliton took over as head coach. Heck, even before then. And they turned in arguably their most complete effort under their new head coach against a Predators team that came in tied for second in the NHL with 46 points.

Even more impressive, the Blackhawks shut the door in the final 40:33 and gave up one or fewer goals for the first time since Nov. 18 in a 3-1 victory over Minnesota — a span of 15 games. Cam Ward was a big reason for that, stopping 30 of 31 shots for a save percentage of .968 to pick up his first win in almost a month.

It was a well-deserved win for the Blackhawks, who earned five out of a possible eight points during their four-game homestand.

"I thought our guys competed and worked really hard all 60 minutes," Ward said. "Defensively we didn’t give them a whole lot and it’s a credit to the guys for the way that they played. We kept it much more simple and executed and, to be quite honest, we could have had more goals if it wasn’t for [Pekka] Rinne. He made some big saves and it was tight right till the end."

2. Contributions from the back end

With Henri Jokiharju being loaned to Finland for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, a void opened up on the Blackhawks blue line. But with that comes opportunity for others.

Gustav Forsling, who returned after missing six games with a shoulder injury, scored his second of the season to put the Blackhawks on the board at the 15:22 mark of the second period. And 1:54 later, Erik Gustafsson made it 2-1 when he scored 17 seconds into a power play.

Despite deserving better fate in the first period, the Blackhawks stayed with it and responded with two goals and outshot the Predators 16-7 in the middle frame to hand Nashville its first loss of the season when leading after one period (10-1-0).

"We always want to score," Forsling said. "But I think the most important thing is not to get scored on and we did a good job at that too."

3. A strong start spoiled

The last time the Blackhawks clashed with the Predators, they allowed three goals in the first 4:11. It wasn't great.

Perhaps motivated by revenge, the Blackhawks were ready to play from the moment the puck dropped this time around, outshooting the Predators 12-11 and generating 13 scoring chances, according to naturalstattrick.com, in the opening frame. But the Predators spoiled their good start when Kevin Fiala scored with 32.2 seconds left.

It's the 15th straight game the Blackhawks allowed a first-period goal, although this is one they can't get too worked up about.

'"We talked about it before: we've got to be ready," Gustafsson said. "Nashville's a great team. We know they're going to come out hard. Right from the start, we battled hard, we stuck together as a team and when we [got] tired, we stuck together in front of [Ward]. It was a team win tonight."

4. Alex DeBrincat is in good company

The Blackhawks celebrated a birthday on Tuesday, with DeBrincat turning 21 years of age. It's weird to think he's only 21, but at the same time it feels like he's been around for a while now and has become part of the core. 

There are only six players in Blackhawks history who have scored more goals than him before turning 21: 
— Eddie Olczyk (65 in 228 games)
— Jeremy Roenick (58 in 146 games)
— Jonathan Toews (58 in 146 games)
— Bobby Hull (55 in 177 games)
— Denis Savard (54 in 129 games)
— Patrick Kane (53 in 181 games)

Of those seven players, DeBrincat ranks fourth in goals-per-game (.362). And the best is yet to come.

"It's a nice weapon to have in your lineup," Colliton said. "He's probably exceeded expectations that people had for him when he first came to training camp a year and a half ago. But there's no reason why he can't keep getting better."

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