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Blackhawks bottom out heading into break in loss to Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. — Corey Crawford got an early start on his All-Star break, benched after yielding three goals in the first period Tuesday night. But his Blackhawks teammates were gone long before that, failing to show up at all and allowing the Carolina Hurricanes to run them out of PNC Arena in a 5-0 debacle.

“It was pretty evident right from the beginning that we were in a lot of trouble tonight,” Joel Quenneville said. “We lost every puck battle, every single race. … It was an ugly game across the board. Nothing positive came out of it, except it’s over.”

So a week after breaking the franchise record with a 12th straight win, the Hawks stumble into the five-day break having lost three of four, with a grand total of three goals in those four games. It was their third listless performance in a row, including a shutout loss at Florida and a Crawford-led win against St. Louis. The Hawks — clearly out of gas both mentally and physically after playing 14 games in 24 days — remain in first place, three points ahead of Dallas (which has three games in hand). But the momentum and good vibes from the win streak is long gone.

“We don’t like to make any excuses, but you look at the schedule, we’ve probably played three, four or five more games than other teams in the league,” said Patrick Kane, who heads to Nashville for the All-Star game while his teammates head either home or to a beach somewhere warm. “Tough three or four games. Didn’t generate much.”

This one looked a bit like the Hawks’ 4-0 loss at Dallas heading into the Christmas break. It was a disaster from the outset, as the Hurricanes raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first 15 minutes of the game, outshooting the Hawks 16-3 in the process. Jeff Skinner scored on a rebound, Riley Nash scored the first of his two goals on a redirect that bounced in off Niklas Hjalmarsson, and John-Michael Liles scored on a 2-on-1 with Kris Versteeg. The Hurricanes were all over Crawford, peppering him with shots and camping out in front of him, tipping and redirecting nearly everything that came in from the point.

Scott Darling came out to start the second, the move as much an indictment of Crawford’s teammates than Crawford himself. He fared no better, giving up a goal to Joakim Nordstrom — the third straight game in which the former Hawks winger has scored — and another one to Nash 93 seconds later.

Jonathan Toews, who has been fighting off sickness, sat out the third period. He left the morning skate early, as well. Eddie Lack, who came up three seconds shy of a shutout at the United Center last month, finished off this shutout with 26 saves.

“There weren’t any positives tonight,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got five days to rest, come back re-energized, practice Monday in Colorado. Let’s go.”