VANCOUVER — Already down their No. 1 goaltender, the Blackhawks lost their No. 2 center. Then they suffered their No. 3 defeat in a row, 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks.
Artem Anisimov left the game midway through the first period and “might miss some time” with an upper-body injury, according to Joel Quenneville. He said the Hawks will have a better idea on a timetable on Friday.
Anisimov’s absence loomed large on a team that was already painfully thin down the middle, but it was another poor night on the power play that doomed the Hawks in this one. The Hawks went 1-of-5 with the man-advantage — actually an improvement after going six straight games without a power-play goal, and carrying a 2-of-42 stretch out of the Christmas break — including some putrid efforts marked by poor passing, botched entries, and a complete lack of a net-front presence (which is often Anisimov’s job).
Quenneville pointed to three straight lousy power plays in the second period as the Hawks’ undoing. Well, that, and allowing the line of Thomas Vanek (two goals, three assists), Brock Boeser (one goal, three assists) and Sam Gagner (one goal, two assists) to have its way with the Hawks defense.
“We lost momentum in the game with our ineffectiveness in the second period — we had a string of power plays, and it slows us down,” Quenneville said. “That was part of it. And pucks going through us down low like Swiss cheese on three of them. … It was too easy.”
Vanek’s first goal was emblematic of the Hawks’ defensive-awareness issues. Gagner — who once had eight points in a game against the Hawks while with the Edmonton Oilers — slipped a pass from behind the net to a wide-open Vanek in the slot for a bang-bang goal.
“Can’t let that puck get through you, and you can’t be that wide open in the slot,” Quenneville said. “Everybody’s responsible.”
Nick Schmaltz, who moved to center after Anisimov left the game, scored a power-play goal at 11:22 of the first period, one-timing a Patrick Kane feed, to tie the game at 1-1. But Gagner found Vanek for that bang-bang goal in the midst of the three straight squandered power plays in the second period, and things unraveled in the third with three straight Canucks goals before Ryan Hartman’s window-dressing goal with 8.6 seconds left in the game.
Anton Forsberg made 26 saves, including a brilliant paddle save early in the first period, with Quenneville deeming him “OK.” But he got no help from a Hawks team that has scored just three goals in its last three games — all losses.
“Bergy was good tonight,” Brent Seabrook said. “I don’t think we played well in front of him. We gave up some point-blank goals right in front. … We’ve got to be better in front of him as a five-man unit in our zone, be better off the rush, be better about pucks going through us. I was the culprit on one. We’ve got to be better as a team in front of him and try to get some [wins].”
Forsberg took some of the blame, too.
“Whether we’re scoring or not scoring, my job is to stop the puck,” Forsberg said. “And five goals is way too much.”
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