Chicago’s three-game winning streak came to an end last night, compliments of the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes, who improved to 4-0-1 their last five games. With a 6-2-1 record in February, the 5-3 defeat was only the second regulation loss for the Blackhawks this month.
Chicago looked sluggish from the jump, losing puck battles and committing the same mistakes that plagued them early in the year. Turnovers and defensive miscues rued the night. It was a disappointing performance for a team still desperate to prove they belong in the top echelon in the league.
“You want to measure yourselves against the best and this team, they’re right at the top of our division and probably the league,” Coach Jeremy Colliton said post-game. “We wanted the challenge. In our barn we were right with them, took three of four points. Tonight, they were better than us. That’s how you measure yourself. We know we’ve got work to do, that’s not a surprise. We’re not a finished product here. We’ll take some lessons from the game and keep getting better.”
After a turnover by Blackhawk defenseman Calvin de Haan, Nino Niederreiter kicked off the scoring late in the first period, snapping a shot from the top of the faceoff circle for the 1-0 Carolina lead. The shot was initially off target, but would deflect off Nikita Zadorov, who was tied up with Carolina’s Martin Necas near the net.
Vincent Trocheck would give the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead early in the second. The Blackhawks had lost a board battle and began scrambling in their own zone. As Mattias Janmark lost his footing, Jake Bean threaded a nifty backhand pass through Hawks rookie Adam Boqvist, finding a wide-open Trocheck in the slot.
Jacob Slavin almost gave the Hurricanes a 3-0 lead late in the period, only for the Hawks to immediately counter. Slavin’s shot rang off the Hawks’ goalpost and right to Alex Debrincat, who chipped the puck to a streaking Kane. Although stumbling on the play, Kane was still able to complete a beautiful spin-o-rama backhand goal around defenseman Brett Pesce, splitting Carolina’s lead in half.
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During a delayed penalty call on Carolina, the Hawks would tie the game with just 11 seconds left in the frame, with defenseman Ian Mitchell scoring his second career goal. Kane and forward David Kampf would assist on the play, but unfortunately, the 2-2 tie would be as close as Chicago would get.
Carolina dominated the Blackhawks in all facets in the third period, including special teams. Martin Necas would regain Carolina’s lead early while on the power play, wristing a rocket that bounced off goalie Kevin Lankinen’s glove-hand, then off the crossbar and eventually into the net before bouncing off defenseman Calvin de Haan. Niederreiter would score his second goal of the game and Slavin would avenge his earlier goalpost on the power play with less than five minutes left, giving the Hurricanes a 5-2 lead.
With Lankinen pulled, the Blackhawks power play would finally cash in with less than a minute in the game, but it was too little too late. Soderberg scored after deflecting a shot from Patrick Kane, who finished the game with 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists). The Blackhawks would finish the night going 1-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-4 on the penalty kill, which proved critical. The Hawks were also outshot 38-29 and had a combined 30 giveaways (17) and Carolina takeaways (13) in the game.
Although the Blackhawks were initially slated to complete their two-game series with Carolina tonight, the NHL has postponed this game due to earlier Covid-19 cancellations in scheduling. Carolina will instead face the Tampa Bay Lightning, while the Blackhawks will be off until Tuesday, when they begin a two-game series with the Columbus Blue Jackets.