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Blackhawks allow three third-period goals in 3-1 loss

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Updated: January 27, 2014 9:56AM

One week earlier, Jonathan Toews was standing in front of his locker, and he was smiling. Feeling good, feeling confident. The worst was finally behind the Blackhawks — the sloppy play, the lackluster efforts, the dog days of January.

But on Sunday night, Toews was standing in front of his locker, and he was gritting his teeth. Feeling angry, feeling frustrated. The worst had only gotten worse — the sloppy play, the lackluster efforts, the dog days of January.

Following a dismal 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Toews was this close. This close to unloading his mounting frustrations. This close to boiling over after the Hawks’ third straight loss. Asked about his emotions after the defeat, in which the Hawks dominated the first two periods to an almost comical extent, only to blow it in the third period, Toews turned the question around.

“I don’t know if there was any emotion, really, as you could tell,” he said. “We just threw away another two points. I don’t know. I don’t really have an explanation right now without saying anything negative.”

The previous Sunday, the Hawks were coming off their biggest weekend of the season — inspired, high-intensity victories over the league-leading Anaheim Ducks and the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins. The heightened weekend seemed to lift the Hawks out of their midseason doldrums.

But a messy shootout loss at Detroit, a lifeless loss at Minnesota, and Sunday’s come-from-ahead loss to the Jets erased all that goodwill, all that energy, all that confidence. In their last home game until March — with a difficult six-game road trip and the Olympic break looming — the Hawks gave up three third-period goals in a game they should have won easily.

“We had two good games against Anaheim and Boston,” Toews said. “I felt we were starting to see the light, as far as getting our game back and getting four lines rolling and putting all the pieces together. And the last three have been back to that sloppy style of play that we were playing for a while before that. We need to get rid of these bad habits, and get rid of them fast. Tonight was another game that, for a while looked like it should have an easy — not an easy two points, that’s the wrong thing to say — but we just kind of gave up on it.”

Indeed, the Hawks had this one under control. After Brandon Bollig scored just 1:21 into the game on an inspired shift by the fourth line, the Hawks had their way with the Jets. Thirty-three minutes into the game, the Hawks had 23 shots on goal. Winnipeg had two.

But the Jets won, anyway.

Chicago native Al Montoya made 33 saves in a sparkling performance, and Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd scored five minutes apart in the third period. Wheeler put a big rebound past Corey Crawford (18 saves) after the Jets thoroughly outworked the Hawks in the offensive zone. Ladd then took advantage of a rare bad Marian Hossa pass right into his own slot, firing a shot that ticked off Duncan Keith and got past Crawford for a 2-1 Jets lead. Wheeler added an empty-netter with 1:15 left to move the Jets to 6-1 under new coach Paul Maurice.

“Tough loss, for sure,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “For sure, for sure, for sure.”

Versteeg tried to look on the bright side.

“We pretty much controlled the entire game,” he said. “We wanted to give the fans a big game tonight, and obviously it didn’t happen. We gave them a good 40.”

And 40 doesn’t cut it.

“We keep reminding ourselves that we only have a handful of games left before this break, and it needs to be better and better right now,” Toews said. “We can’t wait any longer.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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