In back-to-back contests this weekend, the Blackhawks would squander multiple-goal leads.
On Saturday, the Hawks possessed a 2-0 lead late into the second period before ultimately losing to Pittsburgh 3-2 in a shootout. The Hawks also held a 4-1 advantage early into the third against Toronto last night, only to eke out a narrow 5-4 victory.
Even though the Hawks earned five out of six points their last three games, the trend did not sit well post-game.
“Certainly much more entertaining, exciting finish than we would’ve liked it to be,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I liked obviously much of the first two periods, we did a lot of good things: we scored on our chances, we made them pay when we got opportunity, whether it was on the power play or in transition. Of course, would’ve liked to see us close out the game more under control.”
Patrick Kane — who was the first star of the game with two goals and one assist — reiterated the coach’s sentiments:
“You have a 4-1 lead, you feel pretty good about that, but we got to play better in front of him. We got to keep playing — controlling the puck, making plays — kind of like we were in the first twenty.”
The Blackhawks’ four-goal first period was sparked by captain Jonathan Toews, who had come to the defense of teammate Brandon Saad early in the game. Saad was hit high by Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin while trying to glove a puck from the air.
Toews would add a power play goal later in the period, capitalizing on a beautiful tic-tac-toe feed from Kane and Debrincat.
Coach Colliton’s strategy of scratching players continued to pay dividends last night. Rookie Kirby Dach was scratched for the first time two games ago, only to score his first game back up. Similar improvements were seen after Colliton had benched defensemen Brent Seabrook and Erik Gustafsson.
Hawks forward Brandon Saad would continue his hot start to the year by scoring what would be the game-winning goal, driving hard to the net to deflect the puck past Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson. Last night was the fifth loss in as many starts for Hutchinson, who was just waived by Toronto this morning.
Contrary to the Maple Leafs’ struggles in net, Hawks goaltender Robin Lehner continues to be spectacular. Even though the Hawks were outshot 26-7 in the third period, Lehner still preserved the victory. He made 53 saves overall, earning the second star of the game behind Patrick Kane.
“Geez, he was unbelievable there,” Kane said. “From the second [period] on, he really made some unbelievable saves.”
With just two road games scheduled the next six nights, the Hawks will look to sustain their momentum in spite of two-day layoffs between games. The Hawks are now 6-7-4 overall and will face Las Vegas and Nashville on this upcoming mini road trip.