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CHICAGO -- If a win can feel like a loss, perhaps Friday’s 5-4 shootout victory by the Chicago Blackhawks over the New York Islanders is that game.
The Hawks trailed twice but also gave up two third period leads. Winning in a shootout is just as easy as losing -- and excuses nothing for the mistakes in the first 65 minutes.
“Everything exploded in the third,” coach Joel Quenneville said afterwards. “We’ve got to be more composed, especially with the game on the line. We’ve got to tighten up, and be predictable, and trust that we can play our own positions. We’ve got to be better than that, for sure.”
How many times has Quenneville said a version of the same thing this year?
If the Hawks were playing well right now, Jonathan Toews’ shorthanded goal with 1:19 remaining in the second period should have been the back-breaker. The United Center was going wild as the home team took it’s first lead, 3-2 -- most of the audience probably didn’t know the Islanders are awful in the third period this year. They’ve scored just 10 goals while giving up 28.
But there they were, outscoring the Hawks 2-1 and outshooting them, 23 to 7. That’s not a misprint. Twenty-three to 7 in the third period. Forty one to 36 for the game.
“It’s nice to get the two points but I still think we’re loose in our own end,” Sean O’Donnell said. “It just doesn’t seem like we’re as tight as we need to be. We need to play a lot better going into St. Louis tomorrow [Saturday] night.”
Not just Saturday night but every night. Quenneville wouldn’t put it all on Corey Crawford or even his much-maligned defense.
“I wouldn’t blame the 'D' so much,” he said. “Our forwards were contributing as well. We didn’t have guys low when needed in several instances but at the same time we need to be better than that for sure, if we think we’re going to be a better team than that.”
|Jonathan Toews' first shorthanded score of the season gave the Hawks their first lead on Friday night -- but it was short lived.|
The mistakes came in all forms. A too many men on the ice penalty led to the first of two power-play goals by the Islanders. Overall, the Hawks played a poor opening period giving confidence to a fragile New York team. After a great middle 20, Chicago reverted back to its first-period play, giving up another power-play goal while the tying tally, by Nino Niederreiter, occurred after Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith ran into each other. It was his first goal of the season in just his fifth game.
“The win was nice but it’s not the kind of hockey we want to play," O’Donnell stated.
And the hawks have been playing too much of it lately. Only a good finish in the shootout kept the boo birds from invading the building.
“Even though we’re going to make mistakes every game we’re going to find ways to win,” Jonathan Toews said. “The main thing was we had a little more energy and a little better preparation than we did in the last one.”
Energy they had but the mistakes came too often. Friday, they got the win but there won’t be many more two-point nights if they don’t “tighten up” on defense. It’s been said enough.
• Toews scored his team and conference leading 14th goal of the season, his first shorthanded this year.
• With stopping all three shooters in the shootout, Corey Crawford has made save on 11 of 14 shootout attempts this season.
• Ben Smith scored his first goal of the season after sitting out the last four games as a healthy scratch. Smith took Bryan Bickell’s place in the lineup. Bickell was a healthy scratch for the second time this year.
• Quenneville said he liked the play of Marcus Kruger in his debut as the Hawks’ second line center. Kruger played 20:02, registering 4 shots on goal and winning 62 percent of his face-offs.