Florida Panthers right wing Evgenii Dadonov, left, is checked by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy during the second period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: CXA109

Lapses everywhere as Blackhawks regress in 6-3 loss to Panthers

SHARE Lapses everywhere as Blackhawks regress in 6-3 loss to Panthers
SHARE Lapses everywhere as Blackhawks regress in 6-3 loss to Panthers

These Blackhawks are unlikely to cruise to victories. When they win, it’s going to be because of the precise puck control and thorough effort they showed in their recent sweep of a two-game road trip against the Stars and Avalanche.

They aren’t good enough to get by on the way they played Sunday against the Panthers. They reverted to some of the same slop that dragged them to the bottom of the league earlier this month and lost 6-3 at home to a team that doesn’t scare anybody.

The Hawks are taking a three-day break, allowing players to get away for Christmas, and maybe that’s what they need. It also might have been part of the problem, along with it being their third game in four nights.

Whatever the reason, the Hawks weren’t there mentally or physically.

‘‘A little bit of both,’’ coach Jeremy Colliton said. ‘‘We weren’t skating as well as we have, and a lot of decisions were — we could [make] different ones.’’

The Hawks played solid stretches and were tied 2-2 late in the second period, but lapses took them down. Their most egregiously careless moment came on the Panthers’ first goal, which negated an otherwise-strong first period.

Panthers center Jayce Hawryluk skated in on defenseman Carl Dahlstrom and slipped past him, losing the puck briefly. As Hawryluk went for it, goalie Cam Ward came 10 feet out of the net and left it wide-open for a goal. Ward hopelessly chucked his stick in front of the shot as he lunged on the ice.

Ward had been dominant in his first two starts after goalie Corey Crawford went on injured reserve with a concussion, but he allowed five goals on 26 shots against the Panthers, who also had at least three pucks hit the posts.


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The Hawks slipped on Hawryluk again early in the second period, when he skated behind defensemen Duncan Keith and Erik Gustafsson on a change of possession near the Panthers’ net and teammate Mike Matheson led him with a long pass.

Connor Murphy and Alex DeBrincat scored to keep the Hawks afloat at 2-2, but things crumbled when the Panthers scored twice in 31 seconds late in the second period.

Trailing 3-2 after a power-play goal by the Panthers’ Mike Hoffman at 16:49, it was time for the Hawks to dig in or cash out. They were done. The Panthers’ MacKenzie Weegar fired a shot from deep, and Jared McCann beat four Hawks to the rebound and chipped it past Ward at 17:20.

‘‘It seemed like we just lost a bit of our jump,’’ Murphy said of that juncture. ‘‘I don’t know whether it’s just playing a lot of games in a few nights and travel, [but] guys seemed to lose a bit of their jump that we had before.’’

‘‘You can make all the excuses you want, but I just don’t think we played a very good game,’’ DeBrincat said. ‘‘We have to find a way to battle through it, play a simple game if that’s the case and get pucks deep and battle harder. That’s something we didn’t do enough.’’

In the scope of the season, a letdown such as this one isn’t shocking for the Hawks. But they had raised the possibility of a turnaround by going 4-1-1 in their previous six games and looking better in several aspects.

The loss to the Panthers poses the question of which one is the aberration.

‘‘I think it’s pretty obvious [that] when we’re playing a certain way, we’re a good team,’’ center Dylan Strome said. ‘‘We’ve just gotta play the right way and follow the game plan. . . . Hopefully we can continue that after Christmas and continue the little good run that we’re on.’’

That’s a theory. A concrete answer will come when the Hawks resume play Thursday with a home game against the Wild.

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