Blackhawks’ Losing Skid Continues with Loss to Coyotes

The Arizona Coyotes earned their second victory in two meetings this week against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was the second consecutive game in which the Blackhawks allowed five goals, as well as their third straight loss, bringing the Hawks’ record to 2-3-1 to start December.

A slow start would once again doom the Hawks, as Arizona quickly jumped to a 2-0 lead five minutes into the game. Michael Grabner began the scoring by roofing a backhander past Erik Gustafsson’s stick and over Robin Lehner’s blocker. Clayton Keller would follow suit two minutes after being sprung on a breakaway by ex-Hawk defenseman Jordan Oesterle.

Arizona center Brad Richardson would give the Coyotes a 3-0 lead late in the period by tipping defenseman Jakob Chychrun’s shot from the point through Lehner’s legs. The goal was a result of a complete breakdown defensively, as the Hawks were caught puck-watching and chasing, which allowed Richardson to get lost in coverage for the uncontested tip-in.

Compared to their lackluster opening frame, the second period would fare much better for the Blackhawks. After Dominik Kubalik’s shot rebounded off of Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper’s pad, captain Jonathan Toews pounced, scoring his seventh goal of the year and cutting the deficit to two. Unfortunately, ex-Hawk Nick Schmaltz would answer soon after Toews’ goal by jumping on a loose puck during an attack-zone face-off, whizzing the puck past Lehner to restore Arizona’s three-goal lead.

Blackhawk forward Dylan Strome would give the Hawks some late hope by scoring on the power play with seven minutes left in the third, capitalizing on another rebound by Kuemper. Strome’s goal would be too little, too late, however, as Clayton Kellar scored his second goal of the game to cement the win for Arizona.

Ex-Hawks figured prominently for Arizona, as Vinnie Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz, and Jordan Oesterle all registered points in the victory. Oesterle finished with one assist, Schmaltz finished with one goal, and Hinostroza assisted on all three first-period goals. Ex-Hawk defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson did not play, as he is still recovering from a cracked fibula he suffered in the fourth game of the season.

Matthew Highmore drew back into the Hawks lineup, replacing Dylan Sikura, who was a healthy scratch. Highmore was part of an all-rookie fourth line consisting of himself, Kirby Dach, and Alex Nylander. Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton also assembled a rookie third-defensive tandem in Eric Gilbert and Adam Boqvist. Veteran defenseman Olli Maatta returned after missing the last four games with the flu.

The Hawks will look to avoid being swept in the finale of their three game road trip against this Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. As of tonight, the Hawks are only two points ahead of the Western Conference’s last place Los Angeles Kings. With regulars such as Andrew Shaw, Drake Caggiula, Duncan Keith, and Calvin de Haan all out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, the Blackhawks may suddenly find themselves in a rebuilding year if they are unable to find their game soon.

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