Hawks let 2-0 lead vanish in blink of an eye
Joel Quenneville absolutely loved the way his team played Tuesday in a 5-0 thumping of the Canadiens in Montreal.
The Blackhawks coach also loved the way his team started out Friday night against Washington at the United Center.
And why not?
Brandon Saad had opened the scoring late in the first period by finishing off a perfect 2-on-1 with Marian Hossa, and then just 56 seconds into the second, Duncan Keith blasted home a power play goal to put the Hawks up 2-0 to make an already festive atmosphere at the UC just that much more festive.
But before you could say another full 60-minute effort, the Hawks watched in disbelief as all the momentum they had built frittered away as the Capitals took advantage of some defensive miscues to score three times in the final five minutes of the second period, including twice in the last minute, to take a 3-2 lead they would never relinquish.
"I thought we played a perfect 35 minutes and then we basically shot ourselves in the foot with mental mistakes, a couple of plays that are totally unacceptable," Quenneville said. "We're coming off a game where we did a lot of things right and we have a 2-0 lead and giving up nothing ...
"Then we make a bad decision and it's in our net. And then it's in our net, it's in our net (again). The last one at the end of the period (with 4.4 seconds left) was tough to give up."
That would be Joel Ward's seventh goal of the season, which proved to be the game-winner.
"We got satisfied for a short amount of time; we felt comortable with a 2-0 lead and it came back to bite us," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We can't accept that level of effort."
The loss dropped the Hawks, the favorites of many to at least return to the Stanley Cup finals next spring, to a middling 7-6-1 and in ninth place overall in the Western Conference.
"Not good enough," Quenneville said. "Tonight was exactly the same way we've lost the other five games."
So, what exactly is going on with the Hawks and all the fits and starts they've experienced thus far? The statitistics say they should be doing better, but it's certainly not working out that way.
Is there something missing?
"Every team is getting better and tightening up. They get up to play us," said Keith, who played in his 700th NHL game on Friday. "We're on TV and we're in the playoffs a lot. We have to understand -- and it's not something new -- that teams are ready to play against us and I think that showed the first part of this season.
"As a group, we can all do better."
Follow Mike on Twitter @dhspellman