For 32 minutes Wednesday night, the Blackhawks looked like they had actually turned a corner after their weight-lifting victory Monday.
Then everything reverted to normal.
The Hawks blew a two-goal lead, squandered eight minutes of third-period power-play time and lost 4-3 to the Hurricanes. The Hawks fell to 1-8-2, the Hurricanes improved to 9-0-0 and all was status quo in the NHL once again.
“[It was a] very disappointing way to lose,” said coach Jeremy Colliton, looking the most discouraged he has yet this season. “It’s a terrible feeling when you put yourselves in a great position, [then] give them life. We gave them momentum, gave them their goals.
“We gift-wrapped them an opportunity to get back in the game. [It was] hard to watch it happen, hard to be a part of. . . . We need to understand the difference between winning and losing, and why you win and why you lose.”
After two goals by Alex DeBrincat helped the Hawks grab a 3-1 edge, a horribly timed Erik Gustafsson pinch led to a Hurricanes breakaway goal that flipped momentum, and two more strikes 3:09 apart early in the third period turned the game around for good. The Hawks produced little during a late four-minute power play.
Colliton had been preaching that results would eventually reflect the Hawks’ recent improvement. Admittedly, they kept this game far more competitive than their 6-3 beatdown in Carolina last week.
But it still wasn’t good enough, and that’s something the Hawks — who still somehow believe they can “get back in this race,” to use DeBrincat’s words — cannot afford.
“We have to be able to lock it down, make simple plays and not beat ourselves,” defenseman Seth Jones said. “That’s what you see happening through these first  games: We’re beating ourselves.”
“It’s such a wasted opportunity,” Colliton said. “If you’re not extremely upset with what went on, I would question that.”
Just as the Hawks’ COVID-19 outbreak seemed to be ending, the virus threw another wrench in the team’s plans.
Forward Henrik Borgstrom, the last of the five players involved in the team’s initial outbreak, was activated from COVID protocol and participated in the morning skate. But forward Tyler Johnson, already sidelined with a neck injury, and defenseman Isaak Phillips were added to COVID protocol for the first time.
“It’s not ideal,” Colliton said. “You want to have your full group and everyone available.”
All summer, Brent Sopel was probably the most outspoken member of the Hawks’ 2009-10 team regarding the sexual-assault cover-up. But when he watched Kyle Beach tell his story publicly last week, he broke down and cried.
“Nobody should ever have to go through that,” Sopel told the Chicago Sun-Times. “But he’s a hero [for] speaking out to every victim out there. It was an amazing thing what he did.”
Watching the nationwide reaction, Sopel believes that if another assault somehow happened in another NHL organization, it would have “a better chance of being dealt with today than it did two weeks ago.”
But the league and hockey culture still need to make a lot of progress.
“Each team [should have] an employee or somebody who [players] can turn to and not worry about the organization getting mad, whether [that’s regarding] drugs and alcohol or abuse,” Sopel said. “All four major sports need to get better — the world needs to get better — [so] that victims can feel like they can come and talk about it.
‘‘The more victims come and talk about it, hopefully this will happen less and less.”