The Chicago Blackhawks had some fairly quality chances against Semyon Varlamov, the Colorado Avalanche goaltender that has stymied them a fair bit already this season.
On Tuesday he was pretty stingy again on his end. But the Blackhawks and Corey Crawford were too giving on the other.
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Jonathan Toews scored his 22nd of the season, a power-play goal, but Tyson Barrie’s power-play goal a few minutes later won it as the Avalanche beat the Blackhawks 4-2 at the United Center on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks, who have lost three of four, slipped to third in the Western Conference behind St. Louis, which beat Tampa Bay 4-2. Colorado is just one point behind the Blackhawks with a game in hand.
Coach Joel Quenneville “didn’t mind” the Blackhawks’ game against Colorado, which has been the surprise team out of the Western Conference this season. They had 38 shots against Varlamov, with Ben Smith’s wrister and Toews’ goal beating him. They had solid traffic around Varlamov, had second-chance opportunities.
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But Quenneville didn’t sound too happy with what went in on the other end.
“We outchanced them, outplayed them. I didn’t like any of the goals that went in tonight, but that was one of those games,” he said. “I know their (defensemen) are active, off the rush they’re dangerous, as good as any team as far as what they can generate off the rush. But we didn’t give up much tonight as far as quality goes, so that was disappointing.”
Maxime Talbot redirected an Erik Johnson shot for an early 1-0 Avalanche lead. After Smith tied it, Ryan O’Reilly also went five-hole for a 2-1 Colorado advantage. Barrie’s top-shelf shot on the power play sealed it for the Avalanche.
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“I gave up a tough second one there. I was able to bounce back from it, but I need to make a key save at the end on the power play. It was a good shot, but I have to find a way to keep it tied,” Crawford said. “I thought we played well. We had some chances. Just one of those games that slipped away from us.”
The Blackhawks are in unfamiliar territory right now. They got off to such a hot start last season that winning the division was never really in doubt; where they placed in the conference really wasn’t, either. But this isn’t last season. We’re back to the 82-game installment and other teams are breathing down their necks. There are 19 games left. It’s crunch time, a time when the Blackhawks usually excel. They’ll have to do so again.
“We lost a lot of ground tonight. So now we’re behind (St. Louis), and Colorado (trails by) one point. But a lot can change,” Quenneville said. “We’d love to move ahead and finish first in the division. So let’s know we have to be better and more consistent in stretches in games. We did the right things tonight and should’ve taken advantage of it.”