DALLAS — It was a road trip only a mother could love.
Faced with two straight showdowns against their injury-riddled Central Division rivals — and with their moms along for the trip — the Blackhawks fell flat, gaining just one of a possible four points and falling from first to third place as the regular season reaches its final four weeks.
The Hawks followed up their shootout loss to St. Louis (one in which they were fortunate to salvage a point) with a dreadful 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars (who were without Patrick Sharp and three of their top six defensemen) on Friday night. Combined with the Blues’ win over Anaheim, the Hawks are now looking up at the two other contenders for the division crown and home-ice advantage in at least the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“We had a chance to put ourselves in a great spot with two wins against these two teams,” Jonathan Toews said. “There’s still time, obviously, to hang in there and try to stay on top of our division. But we definitely didn’t help ourselves with the way the last two games.”
Minor March stumbles are nothing new for the Hawks, who turned out just fine after miserable stretches in mid-March each of the last two years. But given their mediocre 17-14-4 record on the road, seeding might actually matter this year.
“Nobody’s panicking,” Marian Hossa said with a weary chuckle. “We’ve got a great team here, we’re in a good spot, a good situation. We’re better than we were tonight.”
Couldn’t be much worse. The Hawks never were in this one, as their defense abandoned Corey Crawford, their offense mustered very little, their special teams were a disaster, and they took lazy, flat-footed penalties.
After squandering nearly four minutes of power-play time in the first period — including a very brief 5-on-3 advantage — the Hawks promptly gave up a power-play goal to Jason Spezza. Even with Hossa back in the lineup, the Hawks were 4-of-6 on the penalty kill Friday, and are just 24-of-36 since Feb. 13.
The wheels came off in the second period, as Antoine ROussel, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn all scored from right on the doorstep to make it 4-0. Joel Quenneville pulled Crawford in favor of Scott Darling at that point, but goaltending was hardly the only problem.
“The St. Louis game was all right, but tonight’s game was not good at all,” Quenneville said. “Our special teams had probably as bad a night as we could have.”
Teuvo Teravainen gave the Hawks a glimmer of hope when he scored off a Tomas Fleischmann feed at 13:01 of the second, but that was as close as they’d get, even with Quenneville pulling Darling for an extra attacker with more than eight minutes left in the third period. Ales Hemsky scored an empty-netter with 4:20 left to seal it, with Fleischmann scoring in the final minute for the final margin.
Artem Anisimov sat out most of the third period after suffering an apparent shoulder injury. Quenneville said it was just a precaution, and that Anisimov shouldn’t miss any time. That and the solid play of Teravainen’s line were the lone bright spots in an otherwise gloomy night for the Hawks.
“It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating,” Toews said. “We ran into a team that was sitting here and ready for us, and we didn’t have the speed and the work ethic in the battles in the corners that we needed. So eventually we ended up taking penalties and ended up hurting ourselves. We’ve got to be better than that.”