DETROIT – The power play got one last chance to redeem itself in the waning minutes of the third period.
Down 1-0, the Chicago Blackhawks had another man-advantage opportunity to tie the game, another chance to get something, anything past Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.
They couldn’t even get a shot off. And with that, the Blackhawks went from feeling a little adversity in this series to feeling a stifling amount of it.
Jakub Kindl scored a power-play goal to snap the Blackhawks’ penalty kill streak and Howard did the rest as the Red Wings beat them 2-0 at Joe Louis Arena Thursday night. The Blackhawks now trail the Wings 3-1 in their Western Conference semifinal series.
It was the first time this season the Blackhawks have lost three in a row. It also marked their first shutout of 2013, be it regular- or postseason.
There was another zero for the Blackhawks and that was with that power play: three chances, zero goals. The Blackhawks managed just two shots on them combined and couldn’t even muster one on that final opportunity. It drained momentum, energy that the Blackhawks were building on their 5-on-5 play, and gave the Red Wings penalty kill – and the Joe Louis Arena crowd – life.
When asked about the power play hurting the Blackhawks and losing momentum, coach Joel Quenneville didn’t bite.
“I don’t know if we lost momentum in the game but we obviously could’ve used something on it,” Quenneville said. “The last one wasn’t very good. It certainly would’ve been nice to get one, but our penalty killers, you have to commend them on the job they’ve done.”
That’s fine. But this is about what the Blackhawks couldn’t cultivate, what they’ve rarely been able to cultivate, with that power play despite the tremendous talent that continues to man it. Patrick Sharp had one word for the power-play performance: “brutal.”
“There were a lot of opportunities throughout the game to take advantage of it and we obviously didn’t,” Sharp said. “They did and that was the difference in the game.”
Indeed, it would be. Jonathan Toews had arguably his most frustrating night of the playoffs, as he was whistled for three penalties in the second period. With one second remaining on the second Wings’ power play, they scored, with Kindl’s shot getting through Corey Crawford. It was the first time the Blackhawks gave up a power-play goal this postseason in 30 opportunities.
“Obviously, I disagree with the calls. It's in the heat of the moment they see what they see. I have to be careful with my stick. That doesn't help our team,” Toews said. “I still think we played hard and found a way to stay in the game.”
The Blackhawks did keep it close thanks mainly to Crawford, who stopped 25 of 26 shots in the loss. Daniel Cleary added an empty-net goal with 39 seconds remaining in regulation.
“Corey’s been great. He’s steady back there, makes the saves. You saw in the third period, could’ve easily been 2-0 early,” Sharp said. “We know what we’re getting from him.”
The Blackhawks, however, have few answers for why they’re not scoring, whether it’s on the power play or 5 on 5. They now have just two goals in their last three games. Yes, they’ve hit posts. Yes, Howard has been good. But the Blackhawks’ top players haven’t gotten the shots on net. Toews had three, but Patrick Kane had two and Marian Hossa and Sharp each had just one. Dave Bolland and Michal Handzus each had four.
The Blackhawks are feeling the frustration of their absent offense. They’re now feeling the pressure that comes with being on the brink of elimination. The Blackhawks still think they’re right there, still think they can turn things around. But unless they start scoring quickly, in any way possible, they’ll be starting their offseason a lot quicker than they planned.
“We played our tails off. We did a lot of good things. We just didn't find the back of the net. Eventually, something’s got to give,’’ Toews said. “We’re too good a team, we’ve got too much talent. For as hard as we’re working, something’s got to go our way.’’