The Blackhawks had the lead after the first period but looked sluggish in the final 40 minutes to let two points escape their grasp.
The Chicago Blackhawks fell to the Calgary Flames 2-1 at the United Center in a crucial tilt on Tuesday night. Coming into the contest, the Blackhawks trailed the Flames by five points in the standings, and a victory would have brought them within four points of a playoff spot.
Instead, the Blackhawks allowed Calgary to score the final two goals of the game and walk out of the U.C. with a win. It was just the fourth loss in the last 11 games for the Hawks, bringing their record to 19-19-6 on the year.
Corey Crawford performed well for the second straight game, stopping 26 of 28 Flames’ shots. Crawford kept the Blackhawks in the game down the stretch and made a couple of phenomenal saves with his team shorthanded. It will go down as a loss on the stat sheet, but the 35-year-old netminder looked sharp in the crease.
“There are just little technical plays that the more you play the easier it comes,” Crawford said. “You don’t have to think. I felt more like that tonight.”
The Blackhawks controlled the pace for the majority of the opening frame and outshot the Flames 14-6. Both goaltenders were fantastic early on, but the Hawks finally broke the scoreless tie in the final minute of the period.
Dominik Kubalik made it 1-0 by redirecting an Adam Boqvist shot from the point past Flames’ goaltender Cam Talbot. With the assist, Boqvist now has points in three consecutive games. Patrick Kane also picked up an assist on Kubalik’s 13th goal of the season, giving ‘Showtime’ eight points (4G, 4A) in the last four contests.
“Really liked our first period,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “[I] thought we got a lot of pucks to the net, had some traffic at the net, that’s how we ended up scoring and pretty good position.”
Unfortunately, Kubalik’s goal was all the Blackhawks could accumulate on offense. Their 1-0 lead didn’t hold too long as Elias Lindholm tied the score 14 seconds into the second period. Kubalik turned the puck over on the right boards, and Matthew Tkachuk found an open Lindholm in front of Crawford.
Things began to go downhill for the Blackhawks after Lindholm’s game-tying goal. Not only did all the momentum shift in Calgary’s favor, but Dylan Strome took a nasty fall to the ice and did not return. Looking at the replay, it appears that Strome’s ankle folds under him awkwardly.
The last thing the Blackhawks need is another top-six forward out for an extended period with an injury. Colliton didn’t have much of an update on Strome after the game.
“Probably see [Wednesday] how it looks,” Colliton said. “I’m not sure we’ll have an exact date then either, but we’ll know if it’s days or weeks.”
As if things couldn’t get worse for the Blackhawks in the second period, the Flames took a 2-1 lead at 16:01 on Lindholm’s second tally. Kane’s touch pass off the boards was intercepted by Tkachuk, who set up Lindholm for a one-timer at the left circle.
The opening 10 minutes of the third period was a lot like the second. The Flames dominated possession, and even when the Blackhawks had the puck, they refused to shoot it on net. Their constant unwillingness to make the easy play is costing them games.
“It’s probably more some younger players who are reluctant to,” Colliton said on the Hawks’ hesitance to shoot. “They’re always looking for something better… It’s just we’ve got to be more aggressive, we’ve got to play on our front foot and want to be the guy to make the difference.”
The Blackhawks finally generated some momentum in the final minutes after killing off Calgary’s second 5-on-3 powerplay of the night. Crawford robbed Flames’ forward Johnny Gaudreau of a goal with an incredible split-save to help out the penalty kill.
Jonathan Toews used that momentum to draw a penalty and send the Blackhawks to the powerplay with just over six minutes remaining. The problem was the Hawks continued to make the extra pass instead of firing the puck on net. The powerplay came up empty, and a loss appeared imminent.
Even in the final minutes with Crawford pulled for the extra attacker, the Blackhawks couldn’t get anything going on offense. They forced Talbot to make just six saves in the third period, which is entirely too low. The Blackhawks have now blown a lead in each of their last three losses.
The Blackhawks are off on Wednesday, but they’ll be right back in action at the United Center on Thursday vs. the Nashville Predators. There has been some bad blood between these two teams this season, which all started with Pekka Rinne’s post-game comments after a lopsided 3-0 shutout on Oct. 29. The Hawks answered back on Nov. 16 with a lopsided victory of their own, beating the Predators 7-2 in Nashville.
After a 19-15-7 start to the season, the Predators fired coach Peter Laviolette on Monday and hired John Hynes to the same role. Hynes made his team debut on Tuesday vs. Boston and lost 6-2. The Predators are currently in transition mode as an organization, and the Blackhawks must take advantage on Thursday and come away with a win.
The game is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT and is scheduled to be on NBCSN, NBCSCH, and FS-TN.
For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author (@JackBushman2) on Twitter. Make sure to check out the author’s podcast, Talkin’ Hawkey, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Twitter (@TalkinHawkey).