The Blackhawks played some of their most urgent hockey for 39 minutes Thursday.
But crucial mistakes in the first period and in the final minute of the third period doomed them to a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to the Hurricanes.
“It definitely hurts,” Brandon Hagel said. “[It’s] definitely not a fun way to lose, that’s for sure.”
Jesper Fast’s rebound goal with 29 seconds left, largely against the balance of play, gifted the Hurricanes the win shortly after Dominik Kubalik nearly gave the Hawks a winner of their own on a semi-breakaway.
“We’d like to have a better gap on the entry,” coach Jeremy Colliton said, referring to defensemen Duncan Keith and Calvin de Haan backing off as the Canes entered the zone. “Ultimately, it was a three-on-three at the net, and they found a way to stay in the battle longer than us.”
The Hawks were put behind the eight ball after yet another awful first period, which ended with them trailing 1-0 and losing the scoring-chance battle 12-2.
The team had talked extensively about needing a better start but has conceded 47 scoring chances while generating only 16 over their last four first periods. Colliton pointed to one common theme as the cause.
“We’ve got to do a better job of breaking pressure and finding a way to hold possession and generate some offensive zone time,” he said. “Whatever period it is, when we’ve been good, that’s what we’re doing.”
In between the bad start and disastrous finish, the Hawks played well. Scoring chances were in their favor 17-13 over the final 40 minutes, and they had two game-tying goals: Hagel leveled the score at 2, then Dylan Strome tipped in a shot by Connor Murphy to make it 3-3.
A power play after Strome’s goal created tons of looks, and the Hawks seemed to have all the momentum heading toward overtime — until they didn’t.
“We showed some resiliency to come back a couple of different times, and we had our chances to win it,” Colliton said. “It’s going to hurt here for a few hours.”
Olympic talk for Kane, too
In addition to the Hart Trophy race, Patrick Kane also discussed the possibility of playing on the U.S. team in the 2022 Winter Olympics — one day after Hawks general manager Stan Bowman was named GM of the Olympic team.
“It would be a great honor and a great opportunity to play for your country,” Kane said. “We could put a pretty good team together to compete with some of the ‘better’ countries.”
A member of the 2010 and 2014 teams that fell short, Kane seems a likely candidate for selection again.
“There’s a lot of talk about the 1960 and 1980 teams, and here we are 40-plus years later, and we’re still talking about those teams,” he said. “The legend lives on if you win. So it would be nice to be able to do that for the country.”
Kalynuk seeking stability
Defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk played both games against the Hurricanes this week, his second and third career NHL appearances.
The 23-year-old rookie out of Wisconsin has bounced on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis among the Hawks’ active roster, taxi squad and AHL affiliate in Rockford.
“Every day, you might not know where you’re going to be,” Kalynuk said Wednesday. “As the season goes on, there might be a little more stability here. But it’s been a wild, crazy year.”