A better effort, but no points for Blackhawks
by Scott King
The incredibly desperate for points Chicago Blackhawks needed a quality start and a more complete 60 minutes against the NHL’s second place Tampa Bay Lightning and league-leading scorer Nikita Kucherov on Monday night. The Hawks logged a humiliating 7-3 effort vs. the New York Islanders on Saturday after returning from their bye week.
Sitting five points under a Wild Card spot, the team needed to gain some confidence and some momentum somehow and quick.
If players not named Patrick Kane continued to play without purpose, things could get out of hand quickly against the Stanley Cup favorites.
Kane scored two goals and snagged an assist to reach 800 career points during Saturday’s loss. Recently recalled Erik Gustafsson grabbed both an assist and his first NHL goal in his first game with the Hawks since April of 2016.
After a scoreless first period Monday night, the Blackhawks were trying to capitalize off a Mikhail Sergachev high-sticking and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when Chris Kunitz scored a shorthanded goal at 17:14 in the second period to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
The power play was brutal again on Monday. The Hawks went 0-for-6 and allowed a shorthanded goal during the man advantage. They haven’t scored a power play goal in their last five games.
Yanni Gourde scored late in the third period to make the final score 2-0 Lightning. Tampa goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 40 saves in the shutout. Chicago goaltender Jeff Glass saved 29 of 31 Lightning shots.
“I thought we played a lot better in that game than we have in previous games,” Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. “Obviously it’s not good enough. We had chances, we had momentum in the game and I thought maybe our power play… It would have been nice to get one, maybe two.
“Obviously it didn’t happen and we’re still playing catchup the whole game and we’re taking chances and pushing it and they’re getting odd-man rushes and they got another one at the end.”
Although the effort was better, the Hawks keep finding themselves more in need of points as the clock ticks. Minnesota and Colorado both won Monday night, putting the Hawks seven points behind both teams and seven points out of a Wild Card spot.
“We’re trying to get points and I think that’s the business we’re in right now,” Glass said. “So a little frustrating, but we have to keep working and keep trying to get better.”
“At the end of the day, what happens in our division, it’s out of our control,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “We know what we’re up against. The more you think about that, the more you tend to put pressure on yourself. Right now, we can’t look at the big picture, we just have to go out there and win one game. So if we can have that playoff-like mentality every shift, every period. Just go from there, just focus on the small, short term tasks, and that’s all we’re going to worry about.”
Back at it
Artem Anisimov was back in the lineup after missing the last 10 games with an upper-body injury. Anisimov had 18 points this season before being sidelined.
Tomas Jurco made his season debut with the Hawks on Monday. Jurco was recalled from Rockford and had one goal during the 2016-2017 season splitting time between Detroit and Chicago.
Defenseman Connor Murphy played in his 300th NHL game.
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