Blackhawks lose to Ducks in shootout for third straight defeat
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter December 6, 2013 9:58PM
Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry, left, scores past Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya, center, and goalie Antti Raanta during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)
Updated: January 8, 2014 6:14AM
The last time the Blackhawks lost three straight games, they found themselves facing elimination in the second round of the playoffs against the hated Detroit Red Wings last spring, staring into the void of an uncertain offseason of inevitable changes.
That one turned out OK in the end.
So the Hawks are trying to maintain their perspective after the Anaheim Ducks handed them their third straight loss on Friday night, 3-2 in a shootout.
“You’re not going to win all 82 games during the season, you know there’s going to be ups and downs,” winger Kris Versteeg said. “This team knows what it takes to win.”
That said, it doesn’t get a whole lot easier from here. Sure, the lowly Florida Panthers are next in town on Sunday, but it’s just another game in an exhausting stretch of 19 games in 34 days. And even the Hawks — who have been shrugging off the fatigue angle for weeks now — finally admitted that the schedule is affecting their play.
Not that they needed to say as much — the plodding pace and sloppy play of the last three games spoke volumes.
“It’s just something you have to expect, and you know it’s not going to be easy,” Jonathan Toews said. “You’re not going to go out there flying with legs like [as if] you haven’t played a game in a week, obviously. You’ve got to take that into consideration and when you prepare yourself to play. It’s no excuse.”
The Hawks at least managed to salvage a point out of this one — something Joel Quenneville had been stressing after allowing third-period winners and coming away with nothing against Dallas and Minnesota. Ben Smith scored 45 seconds after Corey Perry did in the first period, and Versteeg equalized Ryan Getzlaf’s second-period goal.
The Getzlaf goal (on Anaheim’s lone power play of the game) marked the fourth-straight game the Hawks’ penalty kill — second-worst in the league — allowed a power-play goal, and Quenneville has just about seen enough.
“That’s when you hit rock bottom, when they score with one second to go on one power play,” Quenneville said. “It’s been a disaster and we can only go up from there.”
Hawks goalie Antti Raanta, making his first home start, made big stops on Teemu Selanne and Matt Beleskey in the third period to get the Hawks’ first point since the circus trip ended.
The pace finally picked up in overtime, and the Hawks actually should have lost earlier. Shortly after Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller made a huge save on a two-on-one with Patrick Kane feeding Toews on the doorstep, Mark Fistric scored for Anaheim. But the goal was waved off because Raanta was interfered with by Saku Koivu — even though Koivu clearly was shoved into Raanta by Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook. It was a gift for the Hawks, but one they couldn’t capitalize on.
Toews scored to open the shootout, but Nick Bonino and Kyle Palmieri beat Raanta, and Patrick Sharp and Kane came up empty.
Versteeg and Toews said a lot of the sudden losing streak had to do with bounces going the wrong way. On that topic, Quenneville simply said, “You earn them.”
Frustration has clearly set in for the Hawks. Fatigue, too. But not panic. Not yet, at least.
“You can’t overreact to it, you’ve just got to try to keep improving on the little things we do well as a team and know that if we keep working, eventually we’ll get the breaks. . . . The last few games, those bounces haven’t gone our way. We’ll keep improving, but not overreact to the result just because it’s not what we want. We’ll keep working. We’ll get it soon enough.”