SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Blackhawks’ penalty kill was critical in the second period, nullifying a San Jose 5-on-3 to keep them within striking distance.
But between early special-teams woes and the loss of Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks didn’t have enough late to muster another comeback.
Toews suffered an upper-body injury and did not return and the Blackhawks couldn’t get past an early deficit in a 2-1 loss to the Sharks on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks gave up a power-play goal (Logan Couture) and a short-handed goal (Joel Ward), the latter proving to be the game winner, in the first period. Artemi Panarin scored his eight goal of the season. Corey Crawford stopped 33 of 35 in the loss.
Toews left the game with about 11 minutes remaining. While it originally appeared to be a lower-body issue – Toews went down awkwardly near the boards midway through the second period – coach Joel Quenneville said Toews was out with an upper-body injury.
“We’ll know more tomorrow but we’re hopeful he’s OK. Nothing long-term or serious,” Quenneville said of Toews. Asked if Toews could finish off this trip, Quenneville said, “yeah, we’ll see.”
The Blackhawks were playing a solid game when they went on their first kill. It didn’t end well, with Couture rocketing one past Crawford for a 1-0 lead. On the short-handed goal Brent Seabrook dove to try and keep the puck in at the blue line. But Ward caught it and Crawford, who never got back in good position, was beaten.
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“Yeah one of those where you think, ‘OK, it’ll be stopping outside the blue line.’ Next thing you know it carries all the way in,” Quenneville said. “It’s a feel thing and I think [Crawford] has pretty good judgment on everything.”
Crawford was good the rest of the way but the Blackhawks, despite getting good scoring opportunities, couldn’t get anything outside of Panarin’s goal past Martin Jones.
“We’ve had chances. We just need to bury a couple,” Artem Anisimov said. “Sometimes it’s a simple play like going to the net, get a rebound goal or something like that. It’s just not clicking yet but we’re trying. We have the shots. We just need the final touch.”
“I thought we had some chances and third period. I thought we were good creating some stuff. Just couldn’t put it in the net,” Seabrook said. “Jones made some big saves.
The Blackhawks have been missing the final touch a lot lately. They’ve been shut out twice on this trip already. They just about were shut out for a third time. Yes, they had better opportunities in this game. They believe they’re heading back in the right direction. Whether or not they’re finishing this trip on a positive, and with their captain, remains to be seen.