Blackhawks Drop Critical Game, Fall Five Points Behind Jets

In the first of a five-game Canadian road trip, the Blackhawks dropped a critical game to the Winnipeg Jets last night, losing 5-2 and falling five points behind the Jets in the Western Conference playoff race.

The game started well enough for the Blackhawks, who jumped to an early 2-0 lead after playing one of their best opening periods of hockey this season.

Rookie Dominik Kubalik began the scoring just 15 seconds into the game after a nice steal by Jonathan Toews on the back-boards. The goal was Kubalik’s 22nd of the season — currently the most scored by any rookie in the league — and his 20th goal scored at even-strength. By assisting on the goal, Toews became the second Blackhawk this season to attain a career milestone, collecting his 800th point one month after teammate Patrick Kane had collected his 1,000th point. Ironically, both milestones occurred against the Winnipeg Jets.

Brandon Saad would add to the Hawks’ lead midway through the first after a terrific set-up by Patrick Kane, who found Saad on the doorstep for the easy deflection.

Up 2-0 early in the second and on the power play, the game would take an irrevocable twist for the Blackhawks. After a botched pass attempt by Alex Debrincat, Winnipeg’s Andrew Copp quickly transitioned up ice, delivering a beautiful backhand-saucer pass over a prone Eric Gustaffson to eventual goal-scorer Kyle Connor. It would be the first of five unanswered goals by Winnipeg in the game.

With Toews serving a questionable penalty-call, Blake Wheeler would tie the game on the power play after blazing past David Kampf along the right-wing boards. Four minutes later, Andrew Copp would make up for having his pocket picked on the Hawks’ first tally by scoring a go-ahead goal of his own, going top-shelf on Corey Crawford, who had gone down early on the play. Patrick Laine and Kyle Connor would add two empty-net goals to complete the comeback.

The game was absolutely critical for both the Hawks and the Jets, who were separated by just three points heading into the contest. The win allowed Winnipeg to move up to the first Wild card spot in the west — five points above Chicago — and one point over the Calgary Flames, who occupy the second Wild Card seed. In addition to Winnipeg — who the Hawks will face again in the last game of this Canadian road trip — the Hawks’ next three games will be against teams that currently range just four to seven points above them in the standings, including the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, and Calgary Flames.

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