The Blackhawks lost 4-2 to the Hurricanes on Tuesday night at the United Center, and it could have been much worse.
Losses are going to happen. Even if they end season-long four-game winning streaks for the Blackhawks, who are not a perfect. They’ll have off games, and losing the possession game is not something they’re unfamiliar with as they entered this game 29th in Corsi.
In each of their four straight victories, they lost either all of the possession categories or at least one. The Blackhawks’ new system, which works so much better, is not one that denies opportunities the other way. The goaltending has made up for it.
Erik Gustafsson made a horrid turnover just past his blue line, and Nino Niederreiter and Martin Necas developed a 2-on-0 chance the other way, and Niederreiter scored at 14:24 in the first period, because how are you not going to score on a 2-on-0.
Andrei Svechnikov sniped a puck off Brent Seabrook’s stick and into the net just 53 seconds into the second period. Niederreiter got a goal of his own at 11:54 of the second when he received a stretch pass from Lucas Wallmark. That put the Blackhawks in a colossal 3-0 hole from which they could not recover, although they tried.
The Blackhawks were beaten in every possession stat in the first two periods and it looked like it was going to be a thrashing. And then Chicago battled back in the third period to make it interesting. If the Blackhawks could have played like they did in the third period for the entire game, they would have stood a chance in this game.
Gustafsson ended Petr Mrazek’s shutout bid at 12:05 of the third, scoring the first Chicago goal against the Hurricanes this season.
Gustafsson activated in the offensive zone, driving to the high-danger area, and Patrick Kane hit Gustafsson’s stick for a tap-in. A little while later, Kane set up another defenseman in Connor Murphy, who scored his first of the seaosn to make it 3-2 only 70 seconds later.
An excellent shot from the royal road and the puck goes in. Unfortunately, despite a power-play opportunity with Brett Pesce in the box after that goal, a chance to tie the game failed. The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, and if they could get going that would be really useful.
After getting outshot 23-10 in the first 40 minutes at even strength, the Blackhawks came back and outshot Carolina 20-6 in the final frame. Chicago finally showed a will to out-possess an opposing team. Again, that just needs to be there earlier.
1. Nino Niederreiter (CAR) - Game-winning goal, 1 assist, 2 shots
2. Patrick Kane (CHI) - 2 assists, 4 shots, 1 takeaway
3. Lucas Wallmark (CAR) - 2 assists, 2 takeaways
The Blackhawks host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday at the United Center.