The Chicago Blackhawks weren’t looking like themselves out of the game on Wednesday night. They were sloppy, they lacked the right amount of energy and Corey Crawford was struggling as much as the rest of his teammates.
And while the Blackhawks recovered to make it a game against the New York Rangers, they had another disappointing ending.
Jonathan Toews scored his 16th of the season, a power-play goal, but Carl Hagelin scored the game-winner with just under six minutes remaining of the Rangers’ 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks. It was the Blackhawks’ first regulation loss since Dec. 14, when they Toronto Maple Leafs drubbed them 7-3. This one obviously wasn’t as bad as that one. But for coach Joel Quenneville, a loss is a loss.
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“We have too many guys right now not contributing to the level we saw most of the season,” Quenneville said. “Those are two disappointing losses at home. Late in the game, we should get it to overtime and go from there. We’re still not good enough across the board.”
Brandon Bollig scored his fourth goal and Duncan Keith recorded his 40th assist of the season for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks looked like a vulnerable bunch in the first period, Crawford included, and the Rangers were all too eager to capitalize. Brad Richards’ 11th goal of the season gave the Rangers a 1-0 advantage, and Mats Zuccarello scored several minutes later for a 2-0 advantage.
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“We know what we have in here as a team. It’s just a matter of putting it together,” Keith said. “We showed it in spurts. It’s just a matter of doing it for a full 60 (minutes).”
Still, the Blackhawks looked ready to put together a good final 40 minutes. Toews’ power-play goal cut the Rangers’ lead to 2-1 about six minutes into the second period. Just 1:48 later, Bollig scored to tie it at 2-2.
That’s how it would stay until late in the third. The Blackhawks couldn’t clear their zone and Marc Staal fired a shot from the blue line. Crawford stopped that one, but couldn’t stop Hagelin’s rebound. The Blackhawks had a flurry of great scoring attempts on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist down the stretch, but the netminder stopped them all. Lundqvist stopped 35 of 37 for the game.
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“We just have to be focused from puck drop,” Kris Versteeg said. “We just have to get back to basics and really use that 60-minute effort. You want those expectations; you want to be expected to win every night. That’s what you strive for as a hockey player. Right now, a couple of bounces haven’t gone our way.”
The Blackhawks’ “rut” is a pretty minor one, obviously. We’ve reached that time during an 82-game season where dredging up the energy isn’t always easy. It’s not an excuse, and none of the Blackhawks were using it as one. Still, every team deals with it. But Quenneville said his team has to work through the mid-season grind.
“We found a way to get ourselves back in the game. We shouldn’t be looking for excuses, whether we’re tired. We get enough time away. You have to find meaning and purpose for every game. I know human nature that some nights it’s tough to get excited, but you have to find a way when you don’t have your “A” game or “A” pace. You play a smart game with a purpose.”