Blackhawks fall in season's final tilt with Winnipeg
If the Blackhawks are going to make a postseason push, they need to defeat divisional opponents directly ahead of them in the standings.
There aren't many of these opportunities remaining, however, with just two more games against Nashville (65 points) and two against Minnesota (61).
The Hawks' final tilt with Winnipeg came on Sunday, and with it the chance to climb out of the Central Division cellar and within 1 point of the fifth-place Jets.
The bounces didn't go the Hawks' way, though, and host Winnipeg prevailed 3-2.
The Hawks (26-25-8) remain 6 points behind wild-card leaders Calgary and Arizona, but they're also 5 points behind Nashville and Winnipeg. Now the question is, how tough will it be for coach Jeremy Colliton's squad to bounce back after a rough 1-4-0 road trip?
"Well, it doesn't really matter if it's tough -- we have to do it," Colliton told reporters. "We've got to find a way. No question (it's) disappointing not to have more points on the trip. Ultimately we had three games that were acceptable and two that weren't good enough. We need more than that to get the points we need. ...
"We've got a lot of home games the rest of the way. We've got to finish off this road-heavy month with some points and then hopefully we're within striking distance."
All 3 Winnipeg goals came on long shots that were deflected and found their way past Corey Crawford.
The last one was perhaps the cruelest as Nathan Beaulieu's attempt deflected off Alex DeBrincat's stick and bounced into the net with 18:24 left in the game.
The Hawks pushed hard in the final two minutes with Crawford out for the final attacker, but nothing came of it.
Winnipeg, which fell behind when Ryan Carpenter scored at 15:44 of the first period, dominated large chunks of the second and took a 2-1 lead on goals by Mason Appleton and Jack Roslovic.
The Hawks have been outscored 67-46 in the second period this season. In the 4 losses on the road trip, opponents had a 6-2 edge in the middle stanza.
"We talk about playing better in the second period; you want to be a good second-period team," Kane said. "That's where you can win a lot of games, especially with the long change. Just haven't been able to do that much this year.
"You see a team like Winnipeg, they hang onto the puck, they control it, they make you take it off 'em instead of giving it away. It's been really successful against us."
The Hawks made it 2-2 with 53 seconds remaining in the second period when Dominik Kubalik, Jonathan Toews and Kane completed a gorgeous rush into the offensive zone that culminated in Kane's 27th goal of the season.
Jeremy Colliton elected to make one significant lineup change against Winnipeg, sitting rookie defenseman Adam Boqvist in favor of Nick Seeler. Colliton wasn't thrilled with Boqvist's defensive zone coverage of late, plus he wanted to match the 6-foot-2, 198-pound Seeler up against the tough, physical Jets.
Not a single penalty was called during the Hawks' 3-2 loss at Winnipeg on Sunday, the first time that's happened in the NHL this season.
"It's amazing sometimes they don't call anything, but for it to go 60 minutes without a penalty is pretty unrealistic," Patrick Kane said.