The Blackhawks' first three-day break in the schedule couldn't come at a better time.
After going 24 games without a loss in regulation, the Hawks have dropped two straight, getting edged by the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 on Sunday night at the United Center.
The Oilers scored 4 goals in the first period, chasing starting goalie Ray Emery, and held off a furious comeback by the Hawks.
"You look at the first 20 minutes we were just so flat and we just didn't have any jump," Jonathan Toews said. "It's like we made every mistake possible by taking penalties and giving them chances in our zone. You give them a 4-0 lead it's pretty tough to come back."
The Hawks looked sluggish and slow early against a young Edmonton team that had gone 0-4-1 in its last five games. But the Oilers always have been a tough beat for the Hawks, who needed overtime to dispose of them two weeks ago after losing three of four to them last season.
Two of those losses last season were blowouts of 9-2 and 8-4 in Edmonton.
It was the seventh game in 11 days for the Hawks, who are 21-2-3 for the season.
Emery was pulled by coach Joel Quenneville at 9:19 of the first period after allowing 3 goals on 8 shots.
"I felt fine; you've just got to make a save, and I didn't," Emery said.
The Oilers got first-period goals from Mike Brown, Sam Gagner, Ryan Whitney and Gagner again, but it was far from over.
"We've seen that movie before from them," Quenneville said. "I liked the response though after that. We were on the receiving end (in the first period). Some mistakes mentally, we weren't sharp, just coverage awareness things -- all things that are preventable."
Patrick Kane tried to bring the Hawks back almost single-handedly in the final two periods. Kane scored 2 goals and was dangerous every time he touched the puck.
"He was special today," Quenneville said. "He had a heck of a game."
Three times in the second period the Hawks pulled within 2 on goals by Kane, Marian Hossa, Sheldon Brookbank and Brent Seabrook. But the Oilers responded twice on power-plays with goals from Shawn Horcoff and Taylor Hall to go ahead 5-2 and 6-3.
"We kept scoring goals and every time we did we seemed to let them come right back at us and steal our momentum away from us," Toews said. "The last 40 minutes we did some good things, but we didn't keep them off the board, I guess."
It was 6-4 going to the third period thanks to Seabrook's goal at 17:12. The Hawks pulled within 6-5 on Kane's second goal on a power play with 12:54 to play, but that's where the comeback stalled.
"Obviously when you get down 4-0 it's tough to come back," Kane said. "But in the room we knew we were going to give it a fight. When you're down 4-0 and you come back to make it 6-5 you've got to have a little bit of a good feeling about that.
"Not a great start, but we've had a lot of games in the last 11 days, so maybe there's an excuse there."
Edmonton backup goalie Yann Danis finished the game after starter Devan Dubnyk was hurt at 9:45 of the second period in a collision at the net with one of his teammates as Hossa busted in on them.
"The explosion we had in the first period, you could see they were a little back on their heels coming off their loss in Colorado," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said. "They were slightly flat and we really took the opportunity."
"For us to come out and have a 4-0 lead against the Blackhawks, the best team in the league, is great for us and it's pretty much what won us the game," Hall added.