ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Chicago Blackhawks came back from their lack of early energy and a 2-0 deficit, and looked poised for another comeback road victory with less than six minutes remaining in regulation.
Then they made some mistakes. Then they allowed goals on their penalty kill. And six minutes later, the Blackhawks faced a deficit from which they wouldn’t come back.
Marian Hossa gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead on a power-play goal early in the third, but the Minnesota Wild scored twice in the final 5:39 to take a 4-3 victory at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks are on a two-game losing streak for the first time this season. The losing isn’t what really bothers the Blackhawks; how they lost these two, especially tonight’s game, does.
“We had an opportunity there, had a couple penalty kills off us and that’s the differential,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The last game gave up another on the power play we can’t give up. That’s probably been the sorest issue for our team. It’s a game we had right where we wanted it, and we need a kill. And we didn’t get it done.”
Jeremy Morin scored his first goal of the season and Brandon Saad recorded his eighth as part of the Blackhawks’ late second-/early third-period comeback. Joakim Nordstrom got his first NHL assist on Morin’s goal.
Indeed, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill, quite the opposite of its stingy 2012-13 installment, gave up two more on Thursday night. The last one helped the Wild tie the game 3-3, as Jonas Brodin’s power-play shot deflected off Johnny Oduya’s stick and past Corey Crawford. The Wild didn’t stop there, however, as Marco Scandella’s 58-foot shot got past Crawford for a 4-3 victory with 1:48 remaining in regulation.
As for Crawford, who allowed four on 23 shots, Quenneville said, “he’s got to be better.”
But it wasn’t just Crawford on Thursday. It was that penalty, or lack thereof, again. There’s been some overall sloppiness that’s crept into the Blackhawks’ game, and it’s hurt them more times than they’d like.
“It seems like, right now, when we make a mistakes at the end it’s costing us,” said Hossa. “It was an up-and-down game, we’re down then we come back. But it just feels like we made more mistakes than they did.”
Jonathan Toews agreed.
“We’re going to make mistakes every game. But we have to try to limit the ones that end up costing us the game, like we made in the third period there,” he said. “But that’s a hungry team; they play smart defensively. It’s tough to create offensive chances against them.”
The Wild staked themselves to a 2-0 lead, thanks to Matt Cooke’s first-period goal and Zach Parise’s second-period power-play offering. The Blackhawks, who weren’t showing much energy through the first 30-plus minutes of this one, got a spark from Morin’s rebound goal with 16.6 seconds remaining in the second period.
“Obviously we wanted to be on the winning side of things,” said Morin. “We took some momentum coming off (that goal) into the third, but we couldn’t get it done.”
Saad kept that momentum going, stealing the puck from defenseman Ryan Suter and scoring to tie it 2-2 just 43 seconds into the third period. Then Hossa scored about six minutes later for the 3-2 lead. But the Blackhawks couldn’t hold it.
“Six minutes to go with a one-goal lead, that’s generally our bread and butter, but we didn’t get it done,” Quenneville said. “We had the momentum. Let’s get it tied, get it to overtime and see what happens. But they got the break and we got nothing.”
The Blackhawks were missing two starters in Michal Handzus and Andrew Shaw, but that’s hardly an excuse for their errors in this one. They got sloppy and they paid for it. The Blackhawks were playing near-flawless hockey down the stretch of their circus trip. That’s what they want to get back to, pronto.
“You look at the last couple games, there are mistakes we’ve made that we have to tend to, obviously,” Toews said. “Like the last game, we felt we had control and just let it slip again. It’s frustrating to give up points like we have the last two games. It’s pretty simple: we need to get back to simplifying and playing the way we played on that road trip.”