The Blackhawks could only limit Sebastian Aho for so long, as the Hurricanes’ center scored three goals in a 5-2 Chicago loss on Monday at PNC Arena, extending the Blackhawks’ losing streak to five games (0-4-1).
The loss eliminates the Blackhawks from contention for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Dougie Hamilton opened the scoring, beating Malcolm Subban off a deflection from Subban’s own stick:
A little over seven minutes later, Nino Niederreiter blocked all of Subban’s vision as Martin Necas found twine from far away. The Hurricanes outshot the Blackhawks 8-4 in the first period, with the Blackhawks getting zero shots in a two-minute power play.
The Hurricanes went up 3-0 after Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho finished a 2-on-1 at the start of the second period. Wyatt Kalynuk and Kirby Dach were the ones defending the breakaway.
Aho scored another goal on a deflection from a Hamilton pass. Collin Delia entered after Subban gave up four goals in less than half the game — his first game since Jan. 17.
Philipp Kurashev looked to have put the Blackhawks on the board later in the second period, but his goal was wiped out due to goaltender interference.
Fortunately, the Blackhawks did get on the board late in the second period as Ian Mitchell found the net from the faceoff dot:
Dylan Strome set the play up from behind the net, his second point in the last three games.
Alex DeBrincat cut the lead down to two late in the third period, after Dominik Kubalik intercepted the puck and fed a pass up the ice:
But that was as close as Chicago would get, as Aho scored his third goal of the game with 1:16 remaining and the net empty to make it a 5-2 score. It was Aho’s fourth career hat trick, after coming into the game with just a goal and an assist against the Blackhawks in the first five games.
- The kids played some good defense in this game, especially early. Nicolas Beaudin made this play:
And on the first goal against, Kalynuk showed some good defensive prowess by containing Hamilton in the corner. That goal was certainly not Kalnyuk’s fault. Mitchell’s goal for the Blackhawks was also a good play for the defenseman who had struggled to re-enter the lineup earlier in the season. There were some developments made in this game, which is a positive sign. At the same time, Mitchell played the fewest minutes of anyone on the blue line (12:07) and Beaudin wasn’t much better (14:02), despite Mitchell being on the ice for only one goal against and Beaudin not being on the ice for any. So, expectations have to be tempered with Jeremy Colliton still serving as the head coach.
- Perhaps no one had a worse game than Kirby Dach, who was on ice for all five goals against. While next to no one had a good game for Chicago, Dach finished with just two shots for and nine against and two high-danger chances to six against at 5-on-5.
- Vinnie Hinostroza, Pius Suter and Kurashev were good as a line at 5-on-5, generating 0.52 expected goals to 0.42 against. They were the only Blackhawks forward line to finish with an expected goals percentage above 45 percent (finishing with 55.11). Right now, any line with Hinostroza on it can seemingly do no wrong. Extend him already.
- In a game where the Blackhawks needed more offense, Kubalik — who assisted on both Chicago goals — played just 14:43, which was less than David Kampf (16:03), who had zero shots and finished with a team-low 9.67 xGF% at 5-on-5. Kubalik was first with a 44.86 xGF%. I’m not saying Colliton doesn’t know how to utilize a lineup but I’m not, not saying that.
- Collin Delia looked solid in his return to the Blackhawks’ net. He stopped each of the 19 shots he faced, including nine from the high-danger area. He faced 2.32 expected goals against — more than the Blackhawks generated all game — and stopped everything. He should get another look on Thursday.
- Sebastian Aho (CAR) — hat trick, nine shots
- Dougie Hamilton (CAR) — one goal, one assist
- Collin Delia (CHI) — 19 saves, 2.32 expected goals against
The Blackhawks finish a back-to-back set against the Hurricanes at 6 p.m. on Tuesday before finishing the season set in Carolina on Thursday.