The Chicago Blackhawks took some solace in their finish on Sunday night, a furious one that almost got them at least one point.
It was getting steamrolled in the first period that they’d rather forget.
Sam Gagner scored twice as part of Edmonton’s four-goal first period, and the Blackhawks’ comeback didn’t come back enough in the Oilers’ 6-5 victory at the United Center. It was the second consecutive loss for the Blackhawks, who, lest anyone forget, are still are atop the Western Conference. But their lead is now down to six points, as the Anaheim Ducks won again, topping St. Louis.
The Blackhawks, who played their seventh game in 11 nights, didn’t want to use fatigue as an excuse. But considering how rough they looked to start this one, compared to how well they played during that 24-game unbeaten streak, it was clear they were feeling the affects of the busy schedule.
Still, they knew how Edmonton always plays well against them. And the Oilers reminded them of that quickly, and frequently, in the first period.
“Definitely disappointed with the way we began the game. We’ve seen that movie before from them,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We made some mistakes, mentally. We weren’t sharp. (Mistakes) that are preventable. We haven’t seen too much of that this year, but give (Edmonton) credit. We faced a dangerous opponent and they attacked well.”
[HIGHLIGHTS: Poor start sinks Blackhawks]
The Oilers were had gone quiet during their nine-game road trip, which began here on Feb. 25 and wraps up in Colorado on Tuesday. The Red Wings and Predators shut them out in consecutive games before they came to Chicago. But the Oilers just love to score on the Blackhawks, and they were at it again on Sunday with four goals in a 10-minute span in the first period.
“You never want to start games going down by four,” Andrew Shaw said. “We worked as hard as we could to get back, but that’s a tough comeback.”
But unlike recent games in Edmonton, when the Oilers would keep scoring and the Blackhawks would simply disappear, the Blackhawks came back in this one. Patrick Kane had another stellar night, scoring twice and almost getting the tying goal late. Marian Hossa, Sheldon Brookbank (short-handed) and Marian Hossa also scored for the Blackhawks, who said they never got down despite the big deficit.
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“When you get down 4-0 it’s tough to come back. But in the room we knew we were going to give it a fight, especially after the first period,” said Kane, who added the team talked and tried to refocus during intermissions. “It was nice to get back in and regroup. There was still a lot of time left. We had chance to come back if we played the right way.”
The Blackhawks just didn’t play the right way enough. Their penalty kill had an off night, as the Oilers scored three power-play goals. Neither Ray Emery nor Corey Crawford could stop the bleeding, either. Emery started but was pulled after allowing three goals on nine shots. Crawford allowed the final three and took the loss.
“To come back and make it 6-5, we have to have a little bit of a good feeling about that,” Kane said. “But it was not a good start.”
The bad start is what the Blackhawks will try and forget. The strong finish is what they’ll try to remember when they get back at it in a few days. After all, they’ve had a lot more of the latter this season than the former.
“We kept working. We took it one shift at a time,” Toews said. “We kept working to the last minute. We came up short, but it goes to show if we’re in a game, down a goal or two, we know we can find a way back into it. We didn’t get two points, we didn’t get what we wanted, but we’ll learn from it and start better next game.”