Hawks struggle again to close late

April, 5, 2013
4/05/13
12:01
AM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford had a difficult time coming to terms with Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues.

For most of the night, the Blackhawks possessed the puck and put shot after shot at the Blues' net. Certainly after two periods, Crawford felt the Blackhawks had the game where they wanted it with a 2-1 lead and a 23-12 advantage in shots.

But then, as has been the trend of late, the opponent stepped up in the third period and the Blackhawks couldn't match them.

"It's a weird game," Crawford said. "I think we controlled most of it. Couple bounces here and there, and they tie it up again and took the lead. The positive thing is we were able to battle back and get a point out of it.

"I don't think teams are outplaying us by any means. We just got to find a way to shut them down. … It's just I think everyone is frustrated with giving up another lead and having to battle back to tie it. I think in a perfect world we just want to be able to shut them down and finish that game 2-1."

The Blackhawks have struggled in recent weeks to close out such games. In their past seven games, they have been outscored 11-5 in the third period. They were outscored in the third period in four of those games, tied in two and outscored their opponent in one. The have gone 3-3-1 in those seven games.

"It's happened a lot lately," Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell said of the third-period collapses. "We just need to keep it simple. I don't know if the bounces aren't going our way. …. Those mistakes are coming between the blue lines and we need to fix them."

Michal Handzus was making his Blackhawks debut on Thursday, but he believes the reason for the Blackhawks' problems comes down to answering the opponents' effort at the start of the period.

"Obviously, when they go down, they're going to come out hard," Handzus said. "You got to come out hard even more. You got to push back right away. We did after, but we didn't right away. I think those first 5-6 minutes of the period we have to establish our game and push them to their zone and not play on our heels. I think that's a lesson to learn that even [when] you get the lead, you got to still [keep] playing and pushing forward and not to sit back."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wouldn't criticize his team's third-period play and said he "liked" the way his team played.

Quenneville did acknowledge his players may have to be more aggressive when their opponent is trailing and begin to get desperate.

"They're playing from behind," Quenneville said. "They're probably taking more risks than they would normally in the first part of the game. I think we should look to take advantage of them pressing a little bit. Hopefully, we can get the odd-man breaks and catch them from trying to score. We check better, we probably get more advantages offensively. Every game has been a little difference. I don't think we gave up a ton in the third period."
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26