NEWARK, N.J. — Jonathan Toews gave Adam Henrique a two-handed shove in the back, and got no reaction. He tried again, nothing. The third time at least got Henrique to turn around, and by the fourth shove — this one right in the chest — the fight was on, the two unlikely combatants dancing at center ice. Toews got the better of the fight, and it seemed like a good way to wake up the sleepwalking Blackhawks late in the first period, just six seconds after giving up a goal.
Twenty seconds later, the Devils scored again. So much for that.
“Kind of a reaction thing,” Toews said of the fight, implying it wasn’t staged. “Usually, it’s not necessarily my thing, as we all know, to try and spark the team that way. I’d rather be on the ice making things happen in the offensive zone.”
The Hawks fell meekly to New Jersey on Friday night, 4-2, in one of their worst efforts of the season, falling behind 4-0 and never really having a chance. They’ve now lost four of five, and have yielded 20 goals in that span. Corey Crawford was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period — that makes it seven goals on the last 34 shots he’s seen, dating back to Wednesday’s come-from-ahead loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Joel Quenneville always says the Hawks measure themselves on what they give up, not what they score. When asked if there was an underlying theme to the recent losses, Quenneville was terse.
“Each goal is different,” he said. “But certainly too many — and relatively easy goals scored against us, without being contested.”
The Hawks tried not to use the injuries to Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa as an excuse, but their absence has been notable, particularly on the defensive side of the puck. Compounding things on Friday was Artem Anisimov leaving the game in the second period with a lower-body injury. Quenneville was hopeful he’d be able to play Sunday against Edmonton.
“It happens; what are you gonna do?“ Toews said. “A lot of teams deal with the same type of thing. It’s a physical game, injuries happen. You can’t just sit back and accept the outcome that we saw today given the fact that we’re missing a couple of our top guys.”
It was bad right away. Lee Stempniak stole a puck from Niklas Hjalmarsson — who was a minus-4 on the night — and walked in on Crawford for the first goal of the game just 3:48 in. Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac scored 26 seconds apart (Toews’ fight happened in between) late in the first, and Mike Cammalleri made it 4-0 at 7:28 of the second.
Patrick Kane scored late in the second, and Tanner Kero scored his first NHL goal with 1:26 left in the game — Quenneville pulled Scott Darling for an extra attacker with a whopping 6:42 left in the game — but the hole was far too deep.
The Hawks have lost five straight on the road, with the circus trip looming in less than two weeks.
“It takes a while for us to panic,” Hjalmarsson said. “We’ve been around for a long time, a lot of guys in here. There’s no panic at all. But the league is so even nowadays, we can’t get too far behind. We have to find a way to get points in pretty much every single game. We have to find a way quick.”