Blackhawks hold their own early in 4-3 loss to Calgary
The Chicago Blackhawks found themselves facing a couple of tough measuring sticks on back-to-back nights.
How did they stack up?
They turned in an impressive performance Sunday night, coming from behind to beat the Penguins 5-3 in Pittsburgh.
Just over 24 hours later, they faced the high-flying Calgary Flames at the United Center and held their own early before falling 4-3. Johnny Gaudreau scored the key goal as his shot slithered through Hawks goalie Collin Delia 54 seconds into the third period to give the Flames a 3-2 lead. The Flames got an empty-netter in the final minute before Brandon Saad scored for the Hawks with 29 seconds left.
"I just didn't get my knees down hard enough," said a disappointed Delia. "Obviously, give him credit. It was a good shot. But I feel that's a save I can make, and it just slips through, barely."
The Blackhawks fell to 16-22-7 as they were outshot 43-35. They need real victories more than they need moral victories, but the way coach Jeremy Colliton saw it, the third period was the killer.
"Sometimes you can (take a moral victory), but I don't think tonight is one of those," Colliton said. "We played really good for one period. If we played close to three periods like we did the second, then we win the game."
Delia started after Cam Ward played in Pittsburgh. One key to stopping the Flames is to contain the top line of Sean Monahan, Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm. Delia made one nice stop on Monahan early in the first period. He stopped another later, but Gaudreau was left wide open to tap in the rebound to give the Flames a 1-0 lead at 3:24.
Of course, it helps the Hawks that they have their own highly skilled player in Patrick Kane, who dazzled with a first-period goal and a second-period assist.
Kane flashed some magic late in the first as he scored on a backhander from a steep angle after coming down the right side off a pass from Artem Anisimov. Somehow, Kane found enough space to put the puck off the shoulder of Flames goalie David Rittich.
"It was a good play by Arty to kind of battle two guys and trusted him to get me the puck, and just tried to make a play on it," Kane said. "Took a look up and saw maybe I had a hole there, so just tried to get it there, it's always nice to see those go in.
"I don't think you really practice it, shooting it in off the goalie. That backhand shot has been a shot that I've been doing my whole life, since I was 7 years old, so it's always been something I've worked on."
Kane showed off his exquisite passing skills early in the second when he moved down the slot at fed Alex DeBrincat with a pass in the left circle. The right-handed shooting DeBrincat put it past Rittich for his 20th goal of the season.
"That's what makes him so special," DeBrincat said. "He has that threat to shoot and score. When he doesn't shoot it, he makes great passes."
Kane, however, echoed his coach in lamenting how the game got away from the Hawks in the third. The momentum changed late in the second when Monahan scored on the power play to tie it.
"I think they took it to us in the third period," Kane said. "We were in a good spot there after two, being tied up, and we should feel confident in that position, so it was unfortunate to see them get an early goal and I think we got away from our game plan a little bit after that."