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.”

Why the Stanley Cup was late to Blackhawks' 2015 Game 6 win over Lightning

Why the Stanley Cup was late to Blackhawks' 2015 Game 6 win over Lightning

Out of tradition and superstition, the Stanley Cup is never in the building until after puck drop during a Stanley Cup Final game in which it could be won, unless it's a Game 7 when both teams have a shot.

On June 15 in 2015, when the Blackhawks won their sixth Stanley Cup in franchise history, old Stanley was a little late to his own party at the United Center.

As the Keeper of the Cup Philip Pritchard tells host Pat Boyle on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, fans were already celebrating the Hawks Cup-clinching win over the Lightning outside the UC as the trophy was pulling in.

Broadcasters 'Doc' Emrick and Eddie Olczyk were filling time waiting for the Cup to arrive, which was still absent during the handshake line.

According to Pritchard, the Cup left the hotel around puck drop and it was the stormy weather that made the Keeper and the best trophy in sports tardy for the celebration.

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"People that weren't (at the game yet) were in traffic and just leaving their cars and walking and the roads were flooded, the highways were flooded, the bypass was like a lake. And as we were coming out towards the arena, we realized then that we were going to need some help, not just Mother Nature help, but we're going to need security help with it as well," Pritchard said.

"As we pulled into the arena — obviously the game had finished and the Blackhawks won — the home team's going nuts, the hometown fans are going crazy. So we presented (the Conn Smythe) to Duncan Keith and then we brought the Stanley Cup out and I remember on the ice talking to Jonathan Toews and he said, 'That was so cool that it took so long and the fans were loving it.' And I was telling him what went on and he goes, 'Really? I just thought it was part of the effect.'"

Report: NHL 2020 training camp, hub city report, playoff start dates emerge

Report: NHL 2020 training camp, hub city report, playoff start dates emerge

Friday, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported some key dates being targeted for the NHL's Return To Play plan, including the start of the 24-team playoff format.

McKenzie said the new slated date for team training camps (Phase 3) is July 13. Teams would report to the hub cities (reportedly Edmonton and Toronto) on July 26 with games and Phase 4 beginning on August 1. 

Bob also shed some light on when Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery and the conclusion of the playoffs may pan out.

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"The second phase of the NHL draft lottery will occur immediately following the best-of-five, play-in qualifying series, so around Aug. 10-12 if all were to go well. Stanley Cup final would wrap up in early October. NHL draft would happen soon after that," he tweeted Friday.

Related: Report: Edmonton expected to host Stanley Cup Final

In Phase 1, the No. 1 overall pick for the 2020 NHL Draft went to a placeholder team. Each of the eight teams that lose in the qualifying round of the postseason format will have a 12.5 percent chance of getting the top pick in Phase 2. 

Related: What if Blackhawks get No. 1 pick and select Alexis LaFreniere?