DETROIT — Twenty hours earlier, they played a game in Chicago. Sixteen hours earlier, at about 2 a.m., they trudged into their hotel. And barely a day later, they were looking at as big a regular-season game as you can find in March, with the Wild coming to the United Center.
Fatigued? Looking ahead? Generally uninterested?
The Blackhawks at times looked like all three in their 4-2 loss Friday to the Red Wings, their second consecutive defeat after a seven-game winning streak. With Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya getting the night off and Corey Crawford playing for the second straight night, the Hawks had their worst showing since before their February resurgence. In fact, it was the first time they allowed four goals since Jan. 26.
That it came against a non-playoff team that was starting a goalie (Jimmy Howard) who hadn’t played since Dec. 20 and that had lost four in a row, including a dreadful 6-1 loss Wednesday to the Bruins, only made it worse. The Hawks tried to paint the Red Wings as dangerous because they were angry about the losses, but the standings don’t lie. It was a poor effort against a poor team.
“I look back at the last 14 or 15 games, we had momentum, we had pace,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Tonight was probably the one game that didn’t get to that level.”
The 1-0 loss Thursday to the Ducks was easy to shrug off, as a dominant Hawks effort was simply stymied by goalie Jonathan Bernier. This loss was just a generally lackluster effort — a lousy last game at Joe Louis Arena, the site of so many memorable Hawks-Wings showdowns over the last four decades.
“Last game at the Joe, you think you’d have a lot of jump and energy,” Patrick Kane said. “So it was frustrating. . . . It probably falls on myself tonight. A lot of bad turnovers and missed coverages in our end. And being on for four goals against isn’t good enough. I’ve got to be better than that.”
Kane was hardly alone in this one. In fact, Kane got the Hawks off to a 1-0 start when he set up Artemi Panarin’s one-timer off the rush with a nifty backhanded pass at 4:23 of the first period.
But after Trevor van Riemsdyk pounced on and fought Justin Abdelkader after a high hit on Brian Campbell, Detroit woke up with two late goals in the period.
First, Xavier Ouellet beat Crawford from the point with a shot that went between Michal Rozsival’s legs at 16:25. Then, with eight seconds left in the first, Andreas Athanasiou put the Red Wings up 2-1 with his 15th goal.
The second period was a lifeless slog, with the Hawks as sluggish and as sloppy as they’ve looked since January. Tomas Tatar made it 3-1 late in the period before a goal by van Riemsdyk gave the Hawks some life in the final minute.
The Hawks had a decent third-period push, but the only grade-A scoring chance came when Kane fed Nick Schmaltz for a hard drive to the net late in the period. Howard made the stop.
“Wish I would have had that one back,” Schmaltz said. “Probably could have waited him out a little longer. I tried to go five-hole, and it just didn’t go in. That would have been a big goal.”
Instead, Tatar’s second goal soon after sealed the Hawks’ fate. Now come the Wild for an 11:30 a.m. start — on the first day of daylight savings, no less. Minnesota won Friday night and has a three-point lead in the Central Division with a game in hand. It’ll take a much better effort Sunday.
“That should get us excited,” Quenneville said. “Another opportunity to close that gap again. It’s a huge game for everybody, so let’s be excited about it.”
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.