Late struggles lead to shootout loss for Hawks

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Late struggles lead to shootout loss for Hawks

The Chicago Blackhawks had a problem last season holding onto slim leads in third periods.

And while doing it once in this early season hardly constitutes a problem, the Blackhawks still weren't too happy they did it.

Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane scored but the Bruins tied it midway through the third and won it in a 3-2 shootout at the United Center on Saturday night. The Blackhawks held a 2-1 advantage until Nathan Horton scored with 7:56 remaining in the third period. While it's still early and the Blackhawks will take that point, there's no doubt they lost their hold on this one.

"We had a couple plays in second period late in shifts where we were trying to make one more play," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We lost the momentum. We should be going ahead with the puck and we go back and it ends up in our net."

The momentum swung from the Blackhawks early to the Bruins late, but one thing was constant: the goaltending. And for both sides, it was stellar. Corey Crawford, who missed the first two days of practice this week, stopped 35 of 37 shots. Crawford said he felt good after his early-week malady.

"It was a pretty exciting game in the third," Crawford said. "But I've got to find a way to make another save when we're up 2-1 and try to close it out."

Meanwhile, Bruins netminder Tim Thomas flashed the brilliance that helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup last spring. He stopped 27 of 29 in regulation and denied Jonathan Toews, Kane and Patrick Sharp in the shootout.

"I dont read (shootout attempts) until the last minute," he said. "On all three, because of two five-hole goals tonight, I was trying to make sure they couldnt have the five-hole first, but tried to keep myself in position to cover the other spots."

The Blackhawks could've avoided the shootout altogether if they'd been sharper in the third period. Be it their sloppiness or the Bruins surge, Boston took control and the Blackhawks couldn't get that two-goal advantage.

"For whatever reason we didn't play the way we wanted to in the third," said Kane, who had another stellar game at center. "It's tough to give up a goal (leading) 2-1. It seemed like we were playing back, not pushing the pace. You don't want to cheat and push too much, but at the same time it would've been nice to make it 3-1."

The Blackhawks aren't going to sweat this one too much. The goaltending was sharp. Boston, coming off a summer of celebrations or not, is a deep and talented team. The 60-minute games will come.

"We lost the momentum even though we had the lead in the third," Quenneville said. "You don't have to give them anything but we did."

Briefly

Daniel Carcillo was active physically again, credited with a game-high eight hits. Bryan Bickell was next with six.

Marian Hossa did not play on Saturday night. Coach Joel Quenneville said again after the game that Hossa's upper-body injury is "not that bad. We're hoping he practices Monday and plays Tuesday (against Phoenix)."

Viktor Stalberg returned to the lineup after missing two and a half weeks with a left knee injury.

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

“Obviously [I want to] get back and playing the same way,” Kruger said. “First I want to get healthy and then get back playing my best and do everything I can for the team.”

Blackhawks updates: Why Joel Quenneville is starting Corey Crawford vs. Canucks

Blackhawks updates: Why Joel Quenneville is starting Corey Crawford vs. Canucks

Corey Crawford will start but Marcus Kruger won't play yet when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.

Scott Darling is coming off a 30-stop shutout in the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over Boston on Friday night. Coach Joel Quenneville said there was some consideration given to start Darling in this one, too, but, "at the same time we want Crow playing as much as he can to get back to the great pace he had prior to being away."

"He hasn't been bad. But certainly that's what we're looking for him to get back to," Quenneville said on Crawford. "I like giving Darls some consideration. We'll see but [Darling] certainly enhanced his positioning."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Meanwhile, Marcus Kruger skated with the Blackhawks for the first time since hurting his hand against the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 30. He took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice but was not among the line rushes. Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is for either Tuesday or Thursday but, "knowing we have that [All-Star] break, we'll see how he feels and what our options are."

Kruger said he felt, "pretty close."

"I tried to take it day by day and prepare to play," Kruger said. "Obviously not tonight, but the next game we will see." 

BLACKHAWKS VS. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
6:30 p.m.
TV: WGN
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks
Forward lines

Ryan Hartman-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Vinnie Hinostroza-Tanner Kero-Marian Hossa
Andrew Desjardins-Dennis Rasmussen-Nick Schmaltz

Defensive pairs
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender
Corey Crawford

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Marcus Kruger (right arm).

Vancouver Canucks (via Canucks)
Forward lines

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Loui Eriksson
Sven Baertschi-Bo Horvat-Alex Burrows
Markus Granlund-Brandon Sutter-Jayson Megna
Brendan Gaunce-Michael Chaput-Jack Skille

Defensive Pairs
Alex Edler-Troy Stecher
Luca Sbisa-Chris Tanev
Alex Biega-Nikita Tryamkin

Goaltender
Ryan Miller

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Anton Rodin (knee), Ben Hutton (hand), Jannik Hansen (knee), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Philip Larsen (upper body), Derek Dorsett (back).