Through their last three games the Chicago Blackhawks were playing the type of hockey that won them so many contests last season: tenacious, driving and fast.
Sunday, there wasn’t much of any of that.
Marian Hossa scored a power-play goal late in regulation to force overtime, but Kris Russell won it there as the Calgary Flames edged the Blackhawks 3-2. It was a so-so game for the Blackhawks, who were missing a lot of the energy that’s been so evident in recent contests.
"We were just OK. The last three games were the way we have to play but we had a drop-off in our game tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We knew going in it was going to be a hard game. They play with a purpose and offensively they make plays around your net. It was a hard game, all game long. But they make you play a hard game.”
The Blackhawks didn’t have a ton of response to that hard game but they did have a ton of shots for Flames goaltender Reto Berra, who played with Patrick Kane for EHC Biel during the lockout last season. Berra, making his NHL debut tonight, was stellar in stopping 42 of 44 shots. The Blackhawks didn’t get the exact quality of shots they wanted on Berra – not as much traffic, rebounds as recent games. But as Quenneville pointed out, Berra wasn’t allowing many second- and third-chance opportunities, either.
“His rebound control was effective,” Quenneville said. “We didn’t get a handle on what was there. We could’ve had more bodies in front of him. But they were pretty effective around the second opportunities.”
Kane, who scored his eighth of the season on his former overseas teammate and gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead, agreed.
“Think in the first he got some confidence from some point shots he didn’t see but he was getting his pads and his body on them,” Kane said. “Sometimes you have to generate a little more. But they play a good team game and don’t give too much. It’s disappointing, with the amount of shots we had, we didn’t score more goals.”
Kane’s goal had barely been announced in the building when the Flames found the equalizer, a double-deflected shot – last by Mike Cammalleri – to tie it at 1-1. Curtis Glencross gave the Flames a 2-1 advantage early in the third period.
Then the Blackhawks got a chance to tie, first with a power play and then with a 5-on-3 for a minute, 42 seconds. The 5-on-3 had just expired when Hossa lasered one through Berra to tie it 2-2.
But the Flames had the last say, with Russell’s shot hitting pipe and landing behind Corey Crawford in overtime.
No, it wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best outing. Nevertheless, they still got a point. Considering the “just OK” performance, they’ll take the point.
Michal Handzus (upper body) skated on his own this morning. Quenneville said Handzus is making progress, but he’s not sure when the veteran will return to practice.
The status of Brad Mills (lower body) still seems to be up in the air. “We’ll probably find out more tomorrow,” Quenneville said.