Barely three minutes had elapsed Saturday before another heart-wrenching injury marred another Blackhawks game.
Stars forward Tanner Kero was knocked unconscious after a crushing hit by Hawks forward Brett Connolly, who drilled Kero’s head as the puck whizzed along the glass past both of them.
The teams recovered from the shock to produce an exciting if sometimes chaotic game, and the Hawks demonstrated more of their resilience under interim coach Derek King by rallying from two goals down to force overtime. John Klingberg’s goal, however, handed them a 4-3 loss in Dallas.
“You always want to beat these teams and climb up the ladder,” King said. “But for us to come back like we did, it’s a huge positive. These guys should be really proud of themselves. Going into our next game, we should think about the little mistakes we made [and try to] stay out of the box. But we did a lot of good things tonight.”
Dominik Kubalik tipped in a shot by Brandon Hagel after an unforced Dallas turnover with 8:05 left in regulation to give the Hawks a third-period game-tying or go-ahead goal in four straight games. Kevin Lankinen kept the Hawks afloat most of the game, finishing with 35 saves.
But the early injury was far too similar to the Jujhar Khaira incident, a jarring moment less than two weeks old that still lingers in the Hawks’ minds.
Kero, a former Hawk, was motionless on the ice for minutes as medical officials stabilized him in a stretcher. He was transported for evaluation to the hospital, where he was conscious, alert and responsive, a Stars spokesperson said.
“These things seem to keep happening all over the place,” Dylan Strome said. “It’s tough to watch. Guys have families and kids, and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Connolly was ejected and also received a five-minute major for interference, giving the Stars an early power play on which they scored twice. King said Connolly was still “shaken up” about the incident after the game.
The Stars later stretched the lead to 3-1 before the Hawks rallied to earn a point for a second consecutive game.
“It’s kind of crazy, to be honest,” said Strome, who scored the Hawks’ second goal. “He’s knocked out cold, gets wheeled off on a stretcher, and you just go right back out there. You have to brush it off and know he’s in good hands and there’s nothing else we can do from the ice.”
Penalty kill struggling
After allowing three goals on eight Dallas power plays, the Hawks’ penalty kill has allowed multiple goals in four of the last six games.
That’s the culmination of an overall poor trend over the last month.
Since Nov. 26, the Hawks have conceded 13 goals on 33 chances — a 39.4% conversion rate.
Predators shut down
The NHL shut down the Predators — one day after they beat the Hawks in overtime — “due to concern for a rising number of positive cases as well as the potential for continued COVID spread in the coming days.”
The Hawks have yet to have any positive cases, but their potential exposure during the game Friday is worrisome.
The Predators joined the Bruins, Flames, Avalanche and Panthers, who already were forced to pause through the holiday break, and the Maple Leafs and Canucks also are trending in that direction based on their postponements this weekend.