Blackhawks' 'statement loss' to Stars tightens Central Division race


Blackhawks' 'statement loss' to Stars tightens Central Division race

The in-game video montages honored former Blackhawks Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya, likely stirring emotions for both.

But the Dallas Stars player who got the best of the Blackhawks on Thursday night wasn’t one of their former teammates.

Patrick Eaves recorded a first-period hat trick and the Blackhawks’ third-period comeback attempt wasn’t enough as the Stars beat the Blackhawks, 4-2, at the United Center.

The Blackhawks’ second straight loss thickens the Central Division plot. While the Blackhawks remain atop the division, the Stars now trail them by just one point. The Stars also have three games in hand.

Corey Crawford was pulled after allowing four goals on 18 first-period shots. Scott Darling stopped 14 second- and third-period shots in relief. Patrick Kane scored his 33rd goal of the season and Duncan Keith added his eighth. Kari Lehtonen was strong, especially in the third period when the Stars needed him to be. He stopped 44 shots, including 19 of 21 in the third.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Last Friday, the Blackhawks recorded what some players called a “statement” victory over the Stars in Dallas. Thursday, on the other hand…

“Well, that was a statement loss if that’s the case,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was a terrible, brutal, brutal first period. We kind of stopped the bleeding in the second, good third. They scored early and it was like we had Ringette sticks tonight. No blade on our sticks.”

The Stars, meanwhile, looked tremendous from the start. They were tenacious, they won puck battles and they took advantage of the Blackhawks’ sloppy play. Eaves’ first goal was an even-strength, seeing-eye shot from an odd angle just 3:19 in the game. The Stars also scored on both of their first-period power plays. Eaves scored on both advantages, his hat-trick goal came just four seconds into the Stars’ second power play.

“We were wide open, giving them chances early. As we saw they don’t miss too often,” Jonathan Toews said. “Obviously they’ve got some firepower, their power play got them going. We get down 4-0, I think we were just kind of in a funk there, and it took us a while to really push ourselves to get out of it. So we started playing with a little confidence in the third and got on the score sheet, but as you saw, it was a little too late when it comes down to it.”

The Blackhawks put up a fight in the third period, firing 21 shots on Lehtonen. Keith’s goal came just 32 seconds into the third and Kane added his about eight minutes into it. But Lehtonen stopped all other threats.

[MORE: Chicago to host 2017 NHL Draft]

The Blackhawks were missing Artemi Panarin for the second consecutive game. Certainly that hurt them on offense – “anytime you’re missing one of your top players, it’s going to have an effect on everyone so hopefully he gets better soon,” Kane said. But Panarin’s absence wasn’t a good reason for what the Blackhawks allowed on the other end.

“We can’t give up the quality or quantity of chances to a team you know can score and attacks well,” Quenneville said. “They’re ready, it’s an important game and you come out like that. That was tough.”

The Blackhawks have been great at home this season but it’s where they’ve suffered their last two defeats. It’s not a situation over which they’ll panic, but they certainly need to be better. And they have to be better, and make the right statement, from the start next time.

“I think we expected that [the Stars] were going to come out hard, given the fact that they had a rough game and didn’t play their best against us last time we were in their building,” Toews said. “I guess we just weren’t prepared to respond to that.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut


Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.