Despite early lead, Blackhawks fall to Coyotes in shootout

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Arizona Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz, left, scores against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner in a shootout of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Chicago. The Coyotes defeated the Blackhawks 4-3.

    Arizona Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz, left, scores against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner in a shootout of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Chicago. The Coyotes defeated the Blackhawks 4-3.

 
 
Updated 12/8/2019 10:21 PM

For most of this decade, when the Blackhawks grabbed a 3-0 or 3-1 lead, the game was all but over.

They'd stifle every rush, deflect dozens of passes, force teams to shoot from the outside and walk out of the building with 2 points.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That's hasn't been the case over the past few seasons, though, as a younger, greener roster continues to learn how to play smart, disciplined hockey. We saw evidence of that once again during a 4-3 shootout loss to Arizona at the United Center on Sunday.

Instead of building on a an impressive first period, the Hawks gave the Coyotes 3 power-play opportunities in the second period and watched their 3-1 lead evaporate in under three minutes.

After that, Arizona controlled the tempo and overwhelmed the Hawks in the third period by outshooting them 17-5.

After an intense -- yet scoreless -- overtime, the Coyotes prevailed by getting shootout goals from Nick Schmaltz and Conor Garland. The Hawks went 1-for-3 in the shootout, getting their lone tally from Patrick Kane.

A stoic Jeremy Colliton wasn't at all pleased that his team let that lead slip away so easily.

"(A) step back from the last two games, for sure," he said. "Especially the second and third I thought we had a tough time making plays (and) exiting the zone. We're not able to establish zone time and momentum and they were."

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The Hawks (12-12-6) were buzzing at the start and went up 3-1 on goals by Jonathan Toews (just his second in 5-on-5 play all season), Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kubalik. DeBrincat, who now has 8 goals on the season, has scored in three straight games.

Arizona made it 3-2 at 6:32 of the second period with Toews in the box for tripping.

The game really turned about 30 seconds later when Arizona's Jason Demers pushed DeBrincat into the boards. No penalty was called, and it led to the Hawks' Dennis Gilbert skating about 100 feet down ice to confront Demers.

The 6-foot-2, 216-pound Gilbert delivered several crushing blows to the 6-1, 195-pound Demers, but the move earned Gilbert instigator, fighting and misconduct penalties.

Carl Soderberg scored on the ensuing power play to make it 3-3.

The Hawks' Calvin de Haan, who assisted on Toews goal, was in utter disbelief that the refs allowed Demers hit on DeBrincat to go unpunished.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It was pretty blatant that (it) was missed," de Haan said. "Alex's head went right off the boards. I don't know how they didn't call that one.

"But good on Dennis to step up and sometimes it takes a big set of cajones to do that. He tried to get a spark for us and I think trying to stick up for your teammates is still part of the game, especially on a hit like that."

Colliton agreed, but he didn't like how his team reacted to the tying goal -- or how they were cheating for offense on the penalty kill.

"We were looking for goals at times and when we had the chance to get the puck 200 feet down the ice we didn't always do that," Colliton said. "I'm not against scoring goals, but let's be smart about it. It cost us. That bled into the rest of our game too."

Lehner (44 saves) was sensational all night. His 2 biggest saves came on a Clayton Keller one-timer midway through the third period and on a Jakob Chychrun one-timer with about 3:20 remaining in overtime.

The Hawks almost won it about a minute later, but Arizona's Darcy Kuemper (26 saves) managed to get his right leg on a Toews redirect of a Patrick Kane pass.

Up next for Colliton's squad is a three-game road trip that begins in Vegas on Tuesday.

Asked for the identity of his team 30 games into the season, the coach responded by saying: "We're inconsistent. And it's up to us to commit to doing the things shift to shift that will allow us to turn into something more. Simple as that."

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