Blackhawks’ losing streak continues with another loss to Lightning

The Hawks finished winless in eight games in the state of Florida this season after falling 4-1 on Saturday in Tampa.

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The Lightning twice victimized Duncan Keith to score on Malcolm Subban in a 4-1 win Saturday.

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So much for Florida vacations.

The Blackhawks finished winless in eight games in the state of Florida this season after a 4-1 loss Saturday against the Lightning.

The first four of those road losses against the Lightning and Panthers started the season on an awful note. The latter four, all within the last week, essentially negated the 14 wins the Hawks accumulated in between.

And so the Hawks return home after their 1-5 road trip at 14-13-5 overall, four games below real .500 and back on the playoff bubble. The gap they’d built between themselves and the middling Stars, Blue Jackets and Predators has been quickly squandered.

“All the teams we played [on this trip], when you make mental mistakes or you’re soft in key moments, they score [and] they make you pay,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We’re working pretty hard for our chances, and it’s not coming as easy as sometimes it does, and you go through stretches like that. But we’ve been made to suffer for the mistakes we make, and we have to react accordingly.”

“We needed a lot more points than we got,” Adam Boqvist said succinctly.

The Hawks have created more scoring chances than they’ve allowed only four times in their last 16 games, but Saturday was actually one of those occasions: The Hawks were credited with 36 scoring chances to the Lightning’s 27.

Yet they failed to convert on their opportunities against Andrei Vasilevskiy — who won his 11th straight start this season and 10th in 10 career starts against the Hawks — and allowed the Lightning to convert a handful of theirs against Malcolm Subban.

An 82-second five-on-three power play midway through the second period, when they trailed 2-0, exemplified that contrast.

The Hawks passed the puck around but didn’t move themselves and therefore didn’t open up any shooting lanes through the Lightning’s three compact defenders. They took four shot attempts during those 82 seconds — two by Patrick Kane, two by Dominik Kubalik — yet none made it on goal.

Six minutes later, forward Yanni Gourde — a thorn in the Hawks’ side between and after the whistles every time the teams play — extended the lead to 3-0. By the end of the period, it was 4-0 and realistically out of reach. A third-period Alex DeBrincat goal made little difference.

“The five-on-three has got to convert,” DeBrincat said. “They do a good job of blocking shots and getting in lanes. But we have two extra guys out there, so we should be able to make a play. We have to work on that. It just wasn’t there today.”

Duncan Keith had a particularly rough outing.

Before the first Lightning goal, the veteran defenseman failed to clear the zone, lost a board battle, then lost goal-side positioning on the eventual scorer, Brayden Point. Before the second goal, he lost his man mark during four-on-four defense and let Anthony Cirelli score on a miniature breakaway.

“When we made a mistake, they punished us,” Colliton said. “We’re going to make mistakes. But the unforced ones are not getting beat to the net, getting beat up ice, turning pucks over in critical areas. Those are things you want to stamp out if you’re going to beat top teams.”

The Hawks’ only solace is they won’t have to return to Florida again, at least in the regular season.

They were outscored 38-17 in the eight games there, a parade of tropical humiliations. During the third period Saturday, they looked merely eager to leave.

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