- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville didn’t want to hear any possible reason why his team was outplayed again during the first period and lost at home for the second consecutive game on Wednesday.
Quenneville quickly dismissed any notion of his team being in the dog days of the season as play leads into the Olympics next month.
He was simply displeased with the way the Blackhawks performed in their 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers at the United Center on Wednesday.
“We shouldn’t be looking for excuses,” Quenneville said. “We shouldn’t be looking for whether we’re tired. We got enough days off. We got enough time away. You got to find meaning and purpose for every game.
“I know that human nature some nights it’s tough to get excited about every game, but you got to find a way when you might not have your ‘A’ game behind you or your ‘A’ pace behind you. You play a smart game with a purpose. I think we need more guys contributing if that’s how they’re feeling.”
Quenneville had also been disappointed with the Blackhawks’ effort in a 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks at home on Sunday. The Sharks led 1-0 after the first period and limited the Blackhawks’ offensive chances throughout the game.
The Blackhawks had a similar slow start on Wednesday. The Rangers jumped on the Blackhawks for two goals in the opening 10 minutes and led 2-0 after the first period.
“I think the biggest thing is coming out to play a little better overall,” said Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith. “We’re getting outworked a few of those games. Especially there in the first, we were sloppy. We got better as the game went along. Unfortunately, they were able to get one late and win it.”
The Blackhawks’ trend lately has been playing well in individual periods, but failing to put it together over full games.
The Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead on the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 28 and were outscored 4-2 over the next two periods. The Islanders outscored them 1-0 in the first period on Jan. 2, and the Blackhawks lost 3-2 in overtime. They needed four goals in the third period to pull out a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 3.
“Everyone knows what they need to do,” Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg said. “I think really just get a 60-minute effort is the biggest thing. We’ve playing good second periods at times and good third periods, not the entire game. Just focus on that the entire game.”
The Blackhawks often have relied this season on just scoring more goals than their opponent. They had been leading the league in goals per game prior to Wednesday. But they’ve scored two goals or less in four of their last five games, and their scoring average has dropped to 3.59 goals per game. The Blues now lead the league with a 3.60 average.
Quenneville wouldn’t put the blame on the offense either.
“We don’t expect to produce at that rate we were most of the year,” Quenneville said. “I still think there’s nothing wrong with winning a 2-1 hockey game or 2-0, 3-2. We expect to be playing in a lot of games with that parity throughout the league, the conference.”
Keith made the distinction between being unhappy with their play and being concerned about it. He didn’t believe there was any worry among his teammates.
“I think we know what we are in here as a team,” Keith said. “It’s just a matter of putting it together and going out there and doing it. We showed that in spurts throughout tonight when we want to play, when we want to push. It’s just a matter of doing it for a full 60.”
18dDarren Rovell and Katie Strang