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.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Expectations for John Hayden in the playoffs

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Expectations for John Hayden in the playoffs

On this episode of the Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Tracey Myers and Pat Boyle breakdown Tuesday's controversial ending with Vancouver. They discuss whether Darling was interfered with on the game winning goal and did Toews deserve a penalty for running into Ryan Miller?

They also discuss the expectations for John Hayden and the tough lineup decisions at forward, that Joel Quenneville will have in the playoffs.

Tracey weighs in on who has been the more impressive goalie tandem, Crow and Emery in 2013 or this year's pair, Crow and Darling?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks want to finish strong while staying fresh for postseason

Blackhawks want to finish strong while staying fresh for postseason

Every team has goals it wants to hit at various parts of the season. At the start you want to be strong so you can save yourself a mad scramble to get into the postseason. In the middle, you want to just keep pace, get through that drudgery known as games 40-60.

But what about the end? If you're a playoff-bound team it's about reaching balance: you want to play your best hockey but also want to get your rest and conserve energy for the "next season."

The Blackhawks are in this mode right now. The postseason berth has been wrapped up. They've hit the 100-point mark and still maintain a six-point lead in the conference/division. So with nine games left the Blackhawks will try to get that overall play they had through most of February while being mindful of rest.

"We have [nine] to go and want to make sure we're fresh. At the same time, we want to be competitive," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're looking to play games and in games, if we have a chance to back off a little bit, that'll be dictated by the score, the time of the game."

Entering their last two games trailing by two, the Blackhawks haven't had the chance to back off. They've had to do the opposite. Quenneville has said the team's four-line rotation, which was great in February, hasn't been there the past few games. Part of that could be due to injury. Artem Anisimov has missed the last three-plus games with a left-leg injury and is still expected to miss another 2-3 weeks. The Blackhawks have found ways to win despite that, but want to get back to more consistent hockey.

"Obviously we still want to try to win our division you want to be playing well," Brian Campbell said. "The last [few] games have been OK, spurts and stuff, so we want to ramp it up. There are some guys who can probably back off if they need or want to, there are those situations. It's a good situation to have. But this team's been around, they know how to prepare and get ready for it."

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So does Quenneville. We've reached that time of the season when the Blackhawks won't practice much, if at all. They're playing every other day and their morning skates are their versions of practice. As for in games, the Blackhawks know how to keep their energy up there, too.

"I think just playing good hockey and taking short shifts is key. You're not extending shifts to a minute and a half, two minutes," Ryan Hartman said. "You're conserving some long-term energy."

The Blackhawks are nearing the regular-season finish line but another race awaits them. They want to be ready for the postseason but they don't want to get too relaxed down the stretch.

"It's still the regular season. Nobody's taking the foot off the gas pedal. We're still trying to win hockey games and you want to come into the playoffs with a winning atmosphere and winning attitude," Hartman said. "Take every game one at a time and don't try to play conservative. Play good and winning hockey."