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Blackhawks’ defense falters in 5-4 loss to Golden Knights

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A blown third-period lead at home against a team on the second leg of a back-to-back? Not good.

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Chicago Blackhawks David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks followed up one of their best performances of the season with another dud in a 5-4 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. The maddening inconsistency of the Hawks reared its ugly head again Friday night in a game that felt like one step forward, then two steps back.

Vinnie Hinostroza was the high note for the team with a three-point effort to extend his point streak to four games. He’s been very good as the top-line right winger over the past few games and seems to have cemented his spot in the lineup with his recent performance.

Jonathan Toews also had a goal and an assist, and Brandon Saad recorded two assists in the loss. Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Sharp scored the other goals, which gives Sharp two scores in the past two games.

Hinostroza’s dish to set up Toews was especially sweet, too.

However, none of that mattered with Vegas racking up 43 shots on goal with Jeff Glass in net. That was always going to be a losing recipe against the team atop the Western Conference standings, and the Golden Knights made the Blackhawks pay until they had been screwed out of two points.

The shine seems to worn off Glass after his exciting debut, as fun as his story is, and now it’s fair to wonder whether the Hawks turn back to Anton Forsberg with Corey Crawford still out indefinitely. We were all worried about what that injury would mean for this team, and right now, it’s costing them because these are the kinds of games where Crawford could stand on his head to save the day.

That’s not a good formula, though, and it’s indicative of a brutal defensive effort from pretty much everyone. Duncan Keith was on the ice for Vegas’ first three goals. Connor Murphy and Brent Seabrook were a complete mess with a minus-5 even strength Corsi together. Murphy also had brutal shifts with Gustav Forsling and Jordan Oesterle, so his individual even strength Corsi was an ugly minus-13.

The young defenseman knows he screwed up, too, especially with his bad pinch on Vegas’ game-winning goal.

It’s just frustrating to see the defense still have games like this so deep into the season. The team had trouble protecting the blue line and clearing the zone all evening. It’s hard to win games when the opponent can regularly speed by you for easy zone entries and you’re left scrambling to get back and hold the fort.

The Hawks remain last in the Central Division with 44 points in 40 games behind the Avalanche, who have won four straight games. A wild card spot is still firmly within reach, but this team needs to start racking up wins soon to make up ground before it’s too late.