The Blackhawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead after an impressive first period but fell flat in the final 40 minutes to let a crucial two points slip out of their grasp.
The Winnipeg Jets extended their point streak to five games by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 at Bell MTS Place on Tuesday night. Dominik Kubalik scored 15 seconds into the contest, and Brandon Saad doubled the lead shortly after, but the Jets responded with five unanswered goals to come away with the victory.
“Just because we started off well, we obviously took our foot off the gas,” Saad said. “They scored a nice shorthanded goal and kind of took it to us the rest of the game.”
Corey Crawford made 31 saves in his eighth start in the last 13 games, but his efforts weren’t enough as the Blackhawks couldn’t hold on defensively.
With the loss, the Blackhawks move to 25-22-8 and fall to four points back of the Calgary Flames for the second wild-card playoff spot.
For the second consecutive game between these two teams in Winnipeg, the Blackhawks struck in the opening minute as Drake Caggiula made a nifty feed from behind the Jets’ net to set up Kubalik for his 22nd goal of the season. Jonathan Toews also picked up an assist for his 800th NHL point in his hometown of Winnipeg, which was only fitting.
“That’s a nice steppingstone, nice to get a big number like that here in my hometown of Winnipeg,” Toews said. “But unfortunately, we couldn’t get the two points. We were looking good the first shift of the game. I thought it was going to be one of those nights, but I think they bounced back and obviously played their best late in the game.”
Just over 10 minutes later, the Blackhawks added to their lead as Saad tipped home a Patrick Kane pass for his 16th goal of the year. Newly-acquired defenseman Nick Seeler (#55) recorded the secondary assist on Saad’s goal in his first game with the team.
After two horrible starts against Minnesota and Boston earlier in the week, the Blackhawks dominated the opening 20 minutes on Sunday to come out of the period up 2-0.
Alex DeBrincat drew a penalty early on to give the Blackhawks a powerplay, but his turnover in the offensive zone led to a Kyle Connor shorthanded goal to cut the lead in half. Andrew Copp was a menace on the penalty kill all night long for Winnipeg, and his sweet dish on a 2-on-1 rush gave Connor a tap-in goal.
Moments later on the Blackhawks’ second man-advantage of the period, the Jets generated three odd-man breaks in less than a minute to completely change the momentum of the game. In 5:01 of powerplay time in the middle frame, the Hawks created just two scoring chances and surrendered four somehow.
“Puck plays were a little sloppy, bunch of turnovers,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “At the very least, you don’t want to give up any chances against. Just killed our momentum.”
Winnipeg went on the control play for the majority of the second period after those kills, as they outshot the Hawks 12-10 and were the faster team despite playing the night before.
Another significant moment in the period was Seeler’s decision to fight Jets’ defenseman, Nathan Beaulieu, in his first game as a member of the Blackhawks. Both defensive-minded blueliners threw heavy punches back and forth before the scrap came to a stop. Seeler finished his Blackhawks debut just a goal shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick.
The ice began to tilt more and more in the Jets’ favor as the second period went on, and the Blackhawks didn’t help themselves with two penalties in the opening 10 minutes of the third. The penalty kill managed to kill off Slater Koekkoek’s interference infraction, but the result wasn’t the same following Toews’ trip. Toews wasn’t too happy about the call from the officials, which seems to be happening a lot lately.
Blake Wheeler darted past David Kampf into the Blackhawks zone and roofed a shot past Crawford’s glove from a bad angle to tie the score 2-2 at 9:04. Opposing netminders continue to rack up the points against the Hawks this season (sarcasm, kind of), as the Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck picked up the secondary assist on Wheeler’s power-play goal.
Based on the feeling of the game, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Jets took the lead. That proved to be correct, as Copp, rightfully so, broke the tie with 6:33 remaining after a quick maneuver around Gustafsson to make it 3-2. Crawford was also down in the butterfly quite early to give Copp a lot of room upstairs.
The Jets went on to add two empty-net goals from Patrik Laine and Connor in the final minutes to secure the 5-2 victory. Coming into the contest, the Blackhawks were just three points back of the Jets in the standings and had a chance to jump both the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild with a win. With so much on the line, it was entirely unacceptable for the Hawks to lose in such fashion.
“I thought we had an excellent first [period]. I really liked how we played. Obviously, the scoreboard reflected that,” Colliton said. “Obviously, the power plays [were] a huge momentum killer for us. Not only did they score, but we didn’t react well to that adversity and it seemed to affect the rest of the game.”
The Blackhawks have Monday off before they’re back in action on Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place for their second of five consecutive games on the road. Edmonton is currently 29-20-6 for 64 points through 55 games and sits in second place in the Pacific Division. These two teams met way back on Oct. 14 at the United Center, with the Hawks coming away with a 3-1 victory.
Oilers’ forwards Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are currently first and second, respectively, in both points (Draisaitl, 85, McDavid, 81) and assists (54, 51) in the NHL.
The contest is slated for 8:00 p.m. CT and is scheduled to be on ESPN+, NBCSCH+, and SNW.
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).