Blackhawks salvage point in overtime loss to Stars

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Artem Anisimov celebrates his goal as Dallas’ Stephen Johns skates by during the second period Thursday night. (AP Photo)

In a typical Blackhawks season, November is about settling on line combinations, working a few new players into the rotation, and ironing out any early season wrinkles.

Standings-watching? That’s still months away.

So it was telling that Artem Anisimov pointed out the fact that the Hawks and Stars were tied in the Central Division — and both on the edge of the playoff picture — entering Thursday night’s game, the first of a home-and-home with Dallas. This is the Hawks’ new reality. It is going to be a much more tense season than they’re used to.

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“Everybody’s well aware of how close it is and how competitive it is in our division and conference,” coach Joel Quenneville said after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Stars. “That won’t change. Whether that gets you excited or whatever, that’s where we’re at.”

With that in mind, Thursday’s game was something of a mixed bag. The Hawks were truly awful for most of the first 40 minutes. All the good things they’ve been doing that have contributed to their recent surge — better puck management, more cycling, more defensive involvement in the offense — were nowhere to be found. Through two periods, the Hawks had a measly 10 shots.

Yet they still somehow managed to salvage a point, tying the game three different times until Mattias Janmark beat a flat-footed Duncan Keith 51 seconds into overtime for his second goal of the game.

“Disappointing,” Anisimov said.

Janmark also scored on a wraparound at 14:46 of the first, but Alex DeBrincat answered just nine seconds later, becoming the first Hawks rookie ever to score 10 goals in a calendar month. After Radek Faksa scored on a penalty shot — Patrick Kane made a clean stick-lift on Faksa’s shorthanded breakaway, but he was called for hooking — Anisimov banged in a brilliant Kane pass for a power-play goal early in the second period to tie it 1-1.

DeBrincat and Anisimov combined for 19 of the Hawks’ 41 goals in November. But both are planning to shave their “Movember” mustaches. Hockey players are famously superstitious, but apparently not superstitious enough to look silly.

“It’s a bright future for him, if he shaves his mustache,” Anisimov quipped.

The Stars, despite all their skill, are playing a more Blues-style game — structured, defensive, and a little boring under coach Ken Hitchcock.

The Hawks didn’t do themselves any favors with their poor puck management, though.

“Just not really much going on,” Kane said, sounding almost bewildered. “We had the puck and then we gave it away and it was tough to get it back. We started buzzing a little bit in the third and had some momentum which was good to see.”

The Hawks looked like a different team to start the third — faster, more aggressive, more in control. Kane redirected a Gustav Forsling blast to tie the game at 3-3 just 4:34 in. The momentum swung back and forth from there, and Corey Crawford made 13 stops in the third just to get the game into overtime.

The power play — much improved over the past few weeks — was the biggest culprit in this one. The Hawks were just 1-for-7 with the man-advantage, squandering nearly five minutes worth of power plays in the waning minutes of the third period.

The loss leaves the Hawks just outside the Western Conference playoff picture, part of an eight-team logjam between 26 and 29 points. And yes, just 25 games into the season, it is already time to start paying attention. The Hawks and Stars meet again Saturday in Dallas.

“It’s going to be a big game for both of the teams,” Anisimov.

Yes, already.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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