Blackhawks’ PK struggles continue in loss to Blue Jackets

SHARE Blackhawks’ PK struggles continue in loss to Blue Jackets

Ryan Murray tries to move the puck past the Blackhawks’ Artem Anisimov during the first period Friday in Columbus, Ohio. | Jay LaPrete/AP

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For some of the more experienced players on the Blackhawks — guys who have won Stanley Cups, who have been through multiple deep playoff runs, who have played in the Olympics and the World Cup and the Winter Classic and countless other big games — you wouldn’t think confidence would ever be an issue.

But watch enough pucks sail past you and past your goalie, and even the most seasoned and accomplished players can be affected.

“In hockey, we’re always about confidence,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said after the Blackhawks gave up another two power-play goals in a 3-2 loss to the previously winless Columbus Blue Jackets (1-2-0). “And when you see a lot of goals go in the net all the time on the PK, it kind of hits the confidence a little bit. … No excuses. It’s up to [us] and we just haven’t been good enough. That’s just how it’s been. We’ve just got to be better.”

The Hawks now have killed just eight of 19 opposing power plays, for a dreadful 42 percent success rate (a solid PK is usually in the 80s, and the Hawks have flirted with 90 percent as recently as two seasons ago). According to TSN, the Hawks are the first team since the 2010-11 Dallas Stars to allow 10 or more power-play goals in the first five games of the season.

“It’s the toughest stretch I’ve been a part of, by far,” Hjalmarsson said. “That’s been costing us a couple of games here. They might be really valuable points in the end in the standings. … We just have to hit the rest button and just bear down and find a way to get it done, because it’s losing us games right now.”

It was another up-and-down game for the Hawks. They looked lethargic for the first period, were sloppy with their puck management, and repeatedly allowed the Blue Jackets to set up camp in front of goaltender Corey Crawford with nary an attempt to move them. But after giving up 23 shots on goal in the first 25 minutes of the game, they allowed just one five over the final 35 as they frantically chased a 3-1 Blue Jackets lead.

“We responded, so I think that’s a good sign of that,” Jonathan Toews said. “It’s worth giving that extra effort if you can have the puck down in their zone. It’s a lot more fun instead of just kind of straight-legging it, getting tired, and getting stuck in our zone.”

Nick Foligno screened Crawford untouched on Zach Werenski’s game-opening power-play goal. After Tyler Motte followed up a Toews rebound for his first NHL goal to tie the game at 2:29 of the second, Foligno again stood in front of Crawford on a power play and took two whacks at a rebound to put Columbus up 2-1. After William Karlsson planted himself in front of Crawford and tipped in a David Savard wrist shot at 13:44 of the second to make it 3-1 — Columbus’ only shot in the final 15 minutes of the second period — the Hawks took over. They poured on the offensive pressure to close out the second, then broke through in the third when Richard Panik swatted in a bouncing puck from Gustav Forsling at 5:54 of the third. The assist was Forsling’s first NHL point.

Crawford did his best to keep the Hawks in the game, stopping two Brandon Saad breakaways, including one with just five minutes left in the game. He finished with 25 saves as the Hawks dominated the puck in the third period. But the lack of jump at the start and the complete lack of a penalty kill doomed the Hawks in this one.

“When our effort and our energy and our work ethic is there, it usually translates into our special teams, and I don’t know,” Toews said. “It’s frustrating. We definitely have to keep pushing to find a solution. Even when it seems like we’re doing a good job, bounces go against us. We’re just a little shaky in some areas. Unfortunately, another two goals we gave up on the PK. It’s just not good enough. We deserve all the criticism.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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