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.
[VIVID SEATS: Get your Blackhawks tickets right here!]
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.”