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Blackhawks have been dwelling in the land of the lost leads

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Updated: June 2, 2014 12:22AM



The Blackhawks couldn’t stand prosperity — again — and it cost them.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville resisted the notion that the more the Hawks play with fire, the more likely they’re going to get burned. But it happened at the worst possible time Sunday night.

The Hawks, who have been losing leads at an NHL-high rate in the playoffs, led 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 in Game 7 of the Western Conference final at home — the early lead in particular an ideal scenario for a game of this import. But as is their wont, they failed to build on the momentum, lost the lead each time and ran out of game-saving comebacks in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the United Center.

“It’s our responsibility to protect the lead, obviously,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “You’ve got to give [the Kings] credit, too. They kept coming. It’s Game 7 in overtime — it takes one shot and one break and that’s the difference.”

The inability to take advantage of the momentum of a lead has been a problem this postseason. The Hawks lost a two-goal lead for the fifth time in the playoffs in Game 7. They led 2-0 in Game 2 at the United Center, but the Kings responded with six goals to win 6-2.

“It went both ways,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “There are games we were down a couple of goals and fought our way back. It was just the name of the game in this series. I’m not going to nit-pick a little thing like that and talk about what could have been.

“It came down to last-goal-takes-everything and we just didn’t find a way to do it. I had the feeling this game would find a way to go to overtime — tight games the last few games. It’s tough we didn’t get that last one.”

But the Hawks still might rue the missed opportunities to put the hammer down when they had the chance in this series.

“We were productive, but we have to be better at keeping it out of our net,” coach Joel Quenneville said.

“It just seemed like we couldn’t get that three-goal lead,” Keith said. “We were up 2-0 in the first [and] it ends up being tied pretty quick. It would have been nice to get that three-goal lead to distance ourselves a little bit.”

The Kings not only know how to rally from behind, but pounce on opportunity. In Game 7 against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings turned a 3-1 lead early in the third period into a 5-1 rout. In Game 7 against the Anaheim Ducks in the second round, they turned a 2-0 first-period lead into a 5-0 lead en route to a 6-2 rout.

The Hawks could only lament their inability to put the hammer down. They led 2-0, 3-2 and finally 4-3 on Patrick Sharp’s power-play goal with 1:35 left in the second period. But Marian Gaborik scored on a rebound in front of Corey Crawford to tie the game 4-4 with 7:17 left in regulation.

It was the 18th lead the Hawks’ had lost in the 2014 postseason. And the last.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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