Another missed opportunity for Blackhawks as clock winds down

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Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, left, and Toronto Maple Leafs center Zach Hyman battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

by Scott King

Times almost up. The Blackhawks needed to grab two points on Wednesday and slap together a nice winning streak while there’s still a chance to make a playoff push.

Chicago sat seven points behind the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild, and eight points out of a Wild Card spot entering Wednesday’s game vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs at home.

With only 35 games remaining, and after dropping four out of their last five, all home games, the Hawks needed to beat the Maple Leafs, who came into Wednesday night in third place in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic division.

Brent Seabrook scored a power play goal at 5:29 in the first period with Tyler Bozak in the box for slashing David Kampf. It was the first Blackhawks power play goal on home ice since December 8, 2017. The Hawks had been spending extra time working on the power play the last couple days in practice after going 0-for-16 in their last five games.

Mitchell Marner scored for the leafs at 16:37 in the first to tie the game 1-1.

After a second period stalemate, Nazem Kadri scored on a power play in the third period. Tyler Bozak hit him with a pass while he was wide-open in the blue paint to make it 2-1 Toronto at 4:58.

Nick Schmaltz answered back for the Hawks on a power play at 7:55 in the third to bring Chicago to a 2-2 tie. “I thought we got some good looks,” Schmaltz said of the Hawks’ two power play goals. “[The first goal] was kind of a play we worked on, a couple big power play goals, but it wasn’t enough.”

The game would head to overtime, where it would abruptly end.

William Nylander was awarded a penalty shot after Duncan Keith slashed him six seconds into overtime, and scored to win it 3-2 for the Leafs. The Blackhawks were able to grab a point, but right now, they need a whole lot more.

“Obviously we want to be good at home and take pride in playing in front of our fans and we didn’t there,” said Schmaltz after Chicago dropped its fourth straight game at home. “So we [have] to move on and get ready for Detroit.”

One of the main reasons the Hawks are in a hole well past the halfway point of the season is that they have eight to nine more players under the age of 25 playing any given night than they did last year.

Leafs coach Mike Babcock, a former Red Wings and Team Canada coach, knows what it’s like to watch younger players find their way in the NHL.

“It’s not just clicking, it’s learning how to play, learning how to compete.” Babcock said. “Jonathan Toews went against Matthews tonight, Jonathan Toews had the puck the whole time. Obviously he’s a veteran player and Matthews is a good player, Toews knows how to play.

“It takes you a while to learn how to play in this league, to play right, and face the puck, to get used to playing against good players. Q’ does a real good job here obviously, making the most out of the group. It’s no different for our group, we’ve just got to keep getting better.”

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