Chicago Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson (4), right, is checked by Minnesota Wild's Zach Parise (11) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Chicago, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: October 26, 2013 10:48PM
The Blackhawks’ league-worst penalty kill gave up a goal five seconds into the first power play of the night. The hot-and-cold power play came up empty on its first five chances, and six of seven overall. The Hawks took a penalty halfway through a power play. They took a penalty seven seconds into being shorthanded. And even though they killed off that two-man disadvantage, they failed to generate any momentum off it — in fact, they gave up two goals shortly afterward to all but seal their first regulation defeat in eight games.
In short, Saturday night’s 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild at the United Center was nothing special.
“It reflected the rest of our game,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said of the poor special teams performance. “When we had a chance to control the game, to really get the momentum going and get our crowd into it, we didn’t really do it.”
Didn’t do much of anything for much of the game, really. Besides the special-teams struggles, the Hawks — the top defensive team in the league last season — have allowed 11 goals in their last two games. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, after saying earlier in the day that Nikolai Khabibulin’s effort in a 6-5 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday wasn’t good enough, suggested that Corey Crawford didn’t do his part on Saturday. Quenneville said the Hawks gave up the usual amount of chances, but, “They’ve gone in two games in a row on us.”
On the other side, Niklas Backstrom, who was injured in warmups before Game 1 of the first-round series between these teams last spring and missed all of the Hawks’ five-game victory, made 33 saves in the victory, stopping Patrick Sharp seven times — many of them on golden chances. Crawford, meanwhile, made 20 saves.
But Toews said the entire team effort was unacceptable.
“People are talking about us not scoring as much, but sometimes you don’t need to score that many to win, if you’re playing smart defensively,” Toews said. “We had breakdowns, we had turnovers inside our zone, we had miscommunication and penalties we shouldn’t have taken. I think one thing relates to the other and it’s just a little bit sloppy sometimes. We’ve got to tighten that up and get back to playing that solid checking game that we know how to play. Our talent and our ability’s going to take over when the work ethic is there.”
The Wild took a 1-0 lead just five seconds into the game’s first power play, as Marcus Kruger lost a faceoff, Ryan Suter took a shot and Zach Parise put in the rebound. It was the third time the Hawks have yielded a power play goal almost immediately.
“Bingo-bango, in your net right off the bat,” Quenneville said.
Kyle Brodziak made it 2-0 Wild before the Hawks had a goal disallowed — after an excruciating eight-minute review — because Andrew Shaw hit the puck with a high stick. Bryan Bickell scored his fourth goal in as many games less than three minutes later to give the Hawks brief life, but Jason Pominville scored the first of two goals four minutes later to suck the life back out of the building. Patrick Kane (minus-3 for the second straight game) scored on the power play in the third, and Marcus Kruger added a goal in the final minute — window dressing on a pretty ugly scene at the United Center.
The bright side is, the Hawks have an instant chance at redeeming themselves, with the return match in St. Paul, Minn., on Monday night.
“It was an up-and-down game with momentum — we score, we take a penalty, they score,” Bickell said. “It was a roller-coaster game. Tomorrow’s a new day. We play them again. And we need to be better.”