Ryan Hartman’s goal drew a big cheer from the United Center crowd, and at that moment the Blackhawks looked like they were making the most out of what had otherwise been a lackluster second period.
But not long after that things started to go wrong. Penalties were called, one after the other. And a few penalty kills – or lack thereof – later, the Blackhawks lost the lead, the momentum and eventually the game.
Hartman scored the first goal of his NHL career but the St. Louis Blues scored three power-play goals en route to a 5-2 victory over the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. It was a frustrating season opener for the Blackhawks, who were working in a lot of new faces and missing Niklas Hjalmarsson (suspended for the opener) and Andrew Desjardins (out 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury).
The Blackhawks missed those two players on the penalty kill, which struggled in giving up one 5-on-3 and two 5-on-4 goals. Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny each had a goal and two assists for the Blues.
Thanks to the penalties and goals allowed, those final few minutes of the second and first few minutes of the third were forgettable.
“Yeah, you get two 5-on-3s in a short amount of time, give away the momentum of the game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We put ourselves in a tough spot. The first you could say, OK. The second one was marginal. Then we take one and we’ve got to start the third period with fresh ice. Tie hockey game and we’re hoping to get through it and we didn’t.”
The Blackhawks were expecting some bumps in these first few games, considering the youth installed in the lineup. Veterans played a bulk of the minutes; fourth liners Vinnie Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Jordin Tootoo played anywhere from four to nine minutes total – Tootoo played just 4:26. Part of that was how the game went, and the Blackhawks either trying to kill off penalties or get their top offensive guys out there to aid in a comeback.
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
But overall, the Blackhawks weren’t happy with this one. They managed just 19 shots on goal, being outshot 15-3 in the second period.
“We didn’t do a whole lot of what we wanted to. Just our energy, speed and work ethic wasn’t quite there,” Jonathan Toews said. “So we have to regroup, try to come with that energy in the next one and obviously play a little bit smarter too. We didn’t manage the puck well and if you’re not firing on all cylinders and playing at the highest speed, winning your races, winning your battles, eventually you’re going to take penalties and eventually give up scoring chances. we did a lot of that tonight.”
This is going to be a work in progress for the Blackhawks. Young guys will have to adjust. The penalty kill has to improve. So does the overall game.
“There’s no split in our team that’s young guys and veteran players. It’s everybody together,” Toews said. “As a group we weren’t good enough tonight.”