Star struck: Blackhawks allow four first-period goals in pummeling


Star struck: Blackhawks allow four first-period goals in pummeling

Coach Joel Quenneville expected this one to be different.

The previous four Blackhawks-Dallas Stars matchups have been wide open, with the Stars winning three of them easily. This time, Quenneville was looking for a close checking game.

“I expect that kind of game tonight start to finish,” he said.

He didn’t get it.

Vernon Fiddler scored two goals as the Stars handed the Blackhawks another lopsided loss, this one 6-2 at the United Center. The Stars, who remain atop the Central Division with 97 points, clinched a playoff berth.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Five Things: Blackhawks get in another 4-0 hole vs. Stars]

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are winless in six of their last seven. They remain in third in the Central Division, at least for now, with 91 points; Nashville, however, is pushing hard and sits in fourth with 87 points.

The frustration is mounting a bit.

“You can’t blame it on bad luck; you just need to work through some of these games we’re not getting the bounces. You have to work and earn the bounces,” Jonathan Toews said. “We didn’t do that early, again we go down 4-0 — feel like we’ve done that a bunch of times against this team, even at home — it’s going to be an uphill battle trying to get back into the game. And once again that’s what we saw tonight.”

Andrew Shaw and Richard Panik each scored his second goal in as many games. But those were about the only bright spots in an otherwise forgettable game for the Blackhawks.

All seemed fine until about 11 and a half minutes in, when Colton Sceviour scored from behind the net, his shot going off Scott Darling’s stick. Just 25 seconds after that Sceviour, once again behind the net, fed Fiddler in front of it for a 2-0 lead. Despite those bang-bang goals, Patrick Kane said the Blackhawks shouldn’t have gotten down.

“I mean there’s still a lot of game left,” he said. “But you take a penalty and they score on the power play, you get a power play thinking you’ll get one back and I made a bad play at the blue line there and they get a breakaway. Next thing you know they’re up 4-0 again in this building, and it seems like it’s the same game that was here last time. Obviously it’s not the first period we wanted.”

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No, it wasn’t. And with two more goals later in the period — Patrick Eaves’ power-play goal and Fiddler’s short-handed goal — the Stars were up 4-0 after the first. The Blackhawks skated to the locker room as the United Center crowd booed.

“Halfway through, after one ... basically we’re done early in the game and it’s hard to tell on how to measure,” Quenneville said. “We have two pucks behind our goal line end up in the net, too easy to give up two quick goals like that. Then we make a mistake on our (penalty kill), then it’s a shorty and it was just hard to watch.”

It didn’t get better through the second and third periods, either. Michael Leighton came in to relieve Darling to start the second. Leighton stopped 16 of 17, but the Blackhawks never really got anything going.

What looked like they were hiccups earlier this season have turned into major struggles for the Blackhawks now. They look shaken and their spot among the Central Division’s top three is tenuous. There is still time to turn it around, but the Blackhawks have to respond sooner rather than later.

“We have three days here to regroup,” Kane said. “Maybe it’s what we need right now: get a little time away from games and try to regroup and know what we’re going to do going into the next little road trip here.”

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on Saturday night:

1. Special night for Duncan Keith — and Brent Seabrook

The Blackhawks celebrated Keith's 1,000-game milestone in the perfect way. Every player wore a No. 2 jersey during warmups, his family was on the ice for the pregame ceremony, and Patrick Sharp made an appearance to present Keith with a silver stick. Seabrook was also paired with Keith among the starters, a great touch by Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff.

But it was also a historic day for Keith's partner and close friend Seabrook, who became the franchise leader in games played by a defenseman, surpassing Bob Murray who previously held that mark at 1,008. It's only fitting Keith and Seabrook shared that moment together.

"We've been riding shotgun together for our whole careers," Keith said. "I couldn't imagine my career, my 1,000 games without him and all the experiences and memories that I've had winning and even losing, and the fun times we've had off the ice. I owe a lot of my success, and I think the team does as well, to Brent and what he means to the team and what he brings to our friendship and as a teammate."

To put a bow on the game, Keith had a vintage Keith moment on the game-tying goal in the third period when he intercepted a pass in the neutral zone on his backhand, then fed Toews a dart leading him into the offensive zone that set up DeBrincat's goal. 

2. Alex DeBrincat's torrid start

The Blackhawks continued to get contributions from their top players such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom extended their point streaks to five games to open the season. But DeBrincat has propelled himself into that conversation as a top player on this team.

He had a multi-goal effort for the second straight game, upping his goal total on the season to a team-leading six. His overtime winner is the first of his NHL career in that fashion.

DeBrincat didn't score his sixth goal until Nov. 12 last season, which was the 18th game. And he still finished with 28. While it's hard to envision him continuing to score at more than a goal-per-game pace, it's not hard to see him continuing to be one of the best players on the ice and generating offense and scoring chances on a nightly basis.

"I think I'm getting pretty lucky right now," DeBrincat said. "I'm playing with [Toews] and [Dominik] Kahun, they're making great plays and getting me the puck. It's pretty easy when you have those guys as your linemates. Even on that last goal, [Erik Gustafsson] made a great pass backdoor to me. Pretty easy tap in."

3. Squandering another two-goal lead

The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead for the third straight game. And they squandered it for the third straight game, in large part because they committed five straight penalties in the second and third periods.

It's no longer a blip at this point and is becoming an alarming trend, even though the Blackhawks have come back to force overtime in each of those three games. That will be something the Blackhawks work on all season long.

But Quenneville would have liked to have seen the Blackhawks keep their foot on the gas pedal and cash in on their opportunities to make it a 3-0 game.

"Score the third goal," he said. "I loved the way we were playing. We had a lot of good things going. Eventually they’re going to get chances, get opportunities. But we had some great chances to get it to three. It was one of those nights, every game is kind of different how the leads changed."

4. Brotherly love

For the first time in the NHL, the Schmaltz brothers finally got their chance to go up against each other at the highest level. There had been a handful of other opportunities in the past, but it never lined up for a variety of reasons. 

They didn't see much of each other while on the ice — they were on together for only 1:30 of the game — but Nick did commit a penalty that led to Jordan assisting on the Blues' first goal on a delayed call. 

The best battles between Jordan, who turned 25 on Oct. 8, and Nick, 22, came when they were kids.

"We had a little roller rink downstairs in our house growing up," Nick said. "It would be me vs. my sister (Kylie) and my brother. Those were probably the best battles. Someone would usually come up crying or high-stick or puck to the face or something like that. A lot of good memories. Looking back at it, it was awesome to have that and work on each other’s game and push each other to get better."