After winning three games in a row and six of their last seven, the Blackhawks were one of the hottest teams in the league — a fact that is becoming less surprising as the season goes on. Alas, not even a goal-of-the-year candidate from Patrick Kane could power the Blackhawks to victory and they fell 5-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night.
The first period period opened with the Hurricanes dictating play at 5-on-5, keeping the Blackhawks to the outside for the few chances they could get in the offensive zone. A little over halfway through the period, the Blackhawks’ power play gave them some life, but it was the Hurricanes who struck first.
After the power play expired, the puck was turned over in the Blackhawks zone and Nino Niederreiter scored to put the Hurricanes up 1-0 with 4:38 remaining in the period.
Despite the Hurricanes owning a 65.52 percent share of shot attempts at 5-on-5, the Blackhawks did limit them to just two high-danger scoring chances. The period would end with the Blackhawks trailing by one, but can’t say they’re not trying their best. Exhibit A:
Less than 5 minutes into the middle frame, Vincent Trocheck made it 2-0. The Hawks lose a board battle, miscue over coverage, and Mattias Janmark fell allowing for the Hurricanes to set up a pretty passing play before the goal.
Much like the first period, the Hurricanes controlled at 5-on-5. Lucky for the Blackhawks, Patrick Kane is having another black magic-fueled season. After the Hurricanes hit two posts, the Blackhawks rushed the other way and Kane scored on a spin-o-rama backhand shot. We’ve seen it before, but it never gets old.
The Blackhawks weathered another burst of Hurricanes frenzy but then flipped the script and the ice as Ian Mitchell tied it for the Blackhawks at two with 10.5 seconds left in the second.
The Blackhawks luck turned sour in the first three minutes of the third period. Dylan Strome took a slashing penalty and the puck bounced weirdly off the crossbar, into Calvin De Haan, and then into the back of the net. Martin Necas got credit for the goal and the Hurricanes were back up by one.
Martin Necas (not pictured) scores a power-play goal pic.twitter.com/VuPMtHDfwa— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) February 20, 2021
The Hurricanes continued to blitz the Blackhawks with quality chances. Niederreiter scored his second of the game on another power play with 4:56 remaining to make it 4-2 Hurricanes.
A fin-tastic effort from Nino tonight! pic.twitter.com/GJ0IsxgAmK— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 20, 2021
Down by two, the Blackhawks pulled Kevin Lankinen for an extra attacker, lost the faceoff, and then Jaccob Slavin scored an empty-netter from 150 feet to make it 5-2 with 3:14 to go in the game.
Jaccob Slavin. From the parking lot. Ball game. pic.twitter.com/DCqB9z4ts6— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) February 20, 2021
The Blackhawks drew a last minute power play, and Soderberg got one back. Kane’s shot deflected through some traffic and made it 5-3 with 50.8 left and unfortunately, that’s how this one would end.
- Tell me if you’ve heard this story before: the Blackhawks struggled with puck possession at 5-on-5. It’s not surprising, especially considering how good the Hurricanes are, but we have to hope some consistent improvement is coming.
- What was surprising is that the Blackhawks kept pace with the Hurricanes in terms of quality chances in the first two periods — the Hawks actually had one more high danger chance at 5-on-5 and 59.43 percentage of expected goals in the first 40 minutes. That’s not too shabby.
- However, the third period was a twisted sequel: the Blackhawks stayed even with the Hurricanes in shot attempts but couldn’t prevent the Hurricanes from having their way with many quality chances. The Blackhawks had only a 36.84 scoring chance percentage, which the second lowest for a period this season for them.
- The Blackhawks’ streak of 15 straight games without losing by more than one goal ended tonight.
- The power play has also predictably come back down to earth. Considering the last time these two teams met, the Hawks power play was the difference, it was ironic that the reverse was true in this game. It definitely hurt to only garner one scoring chance with the man advantage.
- The penalty kill also had a bad night, allowing two goals on four opportunities. If the special teams is going to lag, there’s even more need for the 5-on-5 play to improve.
- On the brightside, the young defensemen did not look out of place against a top-tier team. Adam Boqvist had maybe his best defensive performance of the season, Nicolas Beaudin steady again, and Ian Mitchell impressed at both ends of the ice. The young forwards were quieter than usual but it’s not unexpected that there will be down periods for them over the course of a season.
- So look, the Blackhawks might not be statistically good, but you have to respect their ability to take an ounce of momentum and run with it. It’s been ugly a lot, but at least they can be pretty as they highlight reel themselves to victory or defeat. Sad that it was defeat tonight but can’t steal ‘em all.
- Speaking of highlight reel goals, first watch Tony Luftman react to Kane’s spin-a-rama masterpiece and then Kevin Weeks break it down like he’s an art professor.
- Patrick Kane (CHI) — 1 goals, 2 assists (best goal of the game deserves top spot, fight me!)
- Nino Niederreiter (CAR) — 2 goals, 1 assist
- Jacob Slavin (CAR) — 2 assists, 25:25 of ice time
The Blackhawks face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday at the Nationwide Arena for a 6:00 p.m. start.