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Opportunity missed: Power play fizzles in Hawks' 2-1 loss to Ducks

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews reacts after the Anaheim Ducks held on for a 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference final Thursday night at the United Center. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Who knows what was wrong with the Blackhawks’ power play Thursday night.

Who knows why the Hawks were so potent on the power play in Game 2 of the Western Conference final against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday — scoring on their first two tries — yet were so abysmal in their 2-1 loss to the Ducks on Thursday.

Literally, who knows?

The Hawks’ chronic struggles with a man-advantage are as confounding and mystifying as they are frustrating. All those world-class players and yet the Hawks’ power play is like a gust of wind. It comes. And then it goes. After scoring twice in their Game 2 victory, they were 0-for-5 and credited with one shot on goal in their Game 3 loss. Explaining that is a lesson in futility. It’s like asking Marc Trestman what’s wrong with his offense.

“We’ll look at it, I’m sure, in the next 24 hours and have an answer for you,” Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said when asked why there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the fluctuation in the Hawks’ power-play fortunes.

“Power play goes through stretches where it’s going to get hot and sometimes you’re not going to score. But a big game like that, with a lot of opportunities, it would have been nice to score.”

The Hawks not only had a lot of opportunities, but had them at the right time — four power-play opportunities in the first period. Less than 48 hours after a triple-overtime victory at the Honda Center in Game 2, the Hawks couldn’t have asked for a stronger wind at their back — on home ice, the Hawks played five-on-four for 7:18 of the first 17:36 of the game and came up empty.

“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t convert. It would have made the difference,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “It has made the difference for us so far in this series. We definitely have to be better without the puck, I think, as a group — four guys just being options for the puck-carrier — and we’ll find ways to create scoring chances.”

The Hawks did just about everything wrong to squander their power-play opportunities. When Ryan Kesler was penalized for holding Toews in the first period, the ensuing power play was cut short when Marian Hossa was called for holding 78 seconds later — it was Hossa’s first penalty in seven games.

And they were never worse than on a four-minute power play after Jakob Silfverberg drew blood on a high-sticking infraction against Toews. The Hawks spent more time retrieving the puck than they did attacking the Ducks.

“We didn’t get them tired,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We were the ones getting tired because we had to keep breaking out. We didn’t get the momentum where we should have put a little bit more heat on them. We had them taking penalties and we didn’t make them pay.”

That was the story of the game. The opportunity backfired on the Hawks.

“That’s like a 5-on-3 — you want to take advantage of it,” Toews said. “When you can’t find a way to score a goal, it gives their team a little energy coming off their penalty kill. The power play didn’t make the difference tonight. We’ll find ways to be better in the next one.”

First they have to figure out what they did wrong. Then they have to figure out what they can do about it.

“They checked us hard,” Toews said. “We’ve got to be a little bit sharper off the start. I think we had a rough start and maybe just carried into the opportunity we had later in the game.”

“I don’t think our entries are very good,” forward Patrick Kane said. “Didn’t seem to get the puck back when we were battling for it. We let them have some easy clears, too. That’s got to be way better.”

But Kane’s analysis came with a promise.

“And we will be better at that,” he said. “We’ll make some adjustments and figure it out and fix it and make sure when those opportunities come next game — especially when it’s the beginning of the game and you have those opportunities to get yourself a lead. That’s where it’s disappointing.”